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Yoga May Help Breast Cancer Survivors with Menopausal Symptoms

Posted: March 10, 2008

Yoga helps ease hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors, a U.S. study says.

Some of the 37 women who'd had early stage breast cancer took part in an eight-week "Yoga of Awareness" program, while others were assigned to a control group. All the women self-reported their menopausal symptoms before, immediately after, and three months after the program.

The yoga program used in this study is specifically designed to address menopausal symptoms through gentle stretching postures, breathing exercises, meditation techniques, group discussions and study of yoga principles.

"This program is not what you'd find at your local fitness center," study co-author Laura Porter, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, said in a prepared statement. " 'Yoga of Awareness' is based on traditional yoga techniques that go beyond the teaching of specific postures to incorporate practices aimed at reducing stress and creating a heightened sense of awareness and acceptance about one's physical and mental state."

Women who took part in the yoga program showed significant reductions in the frequency and severity of their hot flashes, along with decrease in fatigue, joint pain, sleep disturbance, and symptom-related distress. They also reported increased vigor. These improvements were still evident three months after the end of the yoga program.

The study was to be presented at the International Association of Yoga Therapists Symposium for Yoga Therapy and Research, in Los Angeles.

The researchers noted that breast cancer survivors often have more severe menopausal symptoms than other women but have limited treatment options. For example, they can't have hormone replacement therapy that may increase their risk of cancer recurrence. In addition, drugs used to prevent cancer recurrence tend to induce or exacerbate menopausal symptoms.

"While this is a specific pilot program, women seeking similar results could consult with an experienced yoga instructor to learn some of the same techniques," Porter said. "In addition to the traditional yoga postures, a well-trained yoga instructor or other mind-body practitioner may be able to provide instruction in breathing and meditation techniques to help manage stress and alleviate bothersome menopausal symptoms."

HealthDay News, March 8, 2008