Women are diagnosed with cancer each year, it is true, but it is also true that more and more women are surviving breast cancer. Researchers attribute the growing number of breast cancer survivors to raised awareness as to the symptoms of breast cancer and an increase in self-breast examination done by women.
Knowledge of symptoms and doing self-breast examination helps in earlier detection of breast cancer. The number of breast cancer survivors is on the rise because of early diagnosis and effective treatment.
However, surviving breast cancer is not like pushing a reset button. No woman survives breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy to emerge feeling healthy. Cancer survivorship has a lot of health consequences that are being discovered only now as more and more people are surviving cancer.
Health Consequences Of Breast Cancer Survivors
1. As any breast cancer survivor will tell you, even after the surgery and the chemotherapy and the doctor telling you that you are in remission, you will probably feel worse than when you first learned that you had cancer.
2. Survivors say that they live with pain. It is not just post-operative pain but it is often a generalized pain.
3. Survivors say they live with fatigue; they feel extremely run down and they cannot seem to find energy to do the usual things they used to do.
4. Survivors also say that aside from the pain and the fatigue, the most difficult thing to overcome is the worrying. They worry that the cancer has returned.
5. They worry that every bump they feel is cancer coming back to haunt them.
6. For these reasons, breast cancer survivors do not sleep well or eat well; they feel depressed and anxious.
How Yoga Helps?
A US study of breast cancer survivors found that yoga, particularly the deep breathing, meditation and the slow stretching movements actually help reduce inflammation and pain. 200 women participated in the study and they were randomly assigned to two groups.
– Half of the women agreed to do yoga for three months.
– The other half were asked not do yoga until after three months.
When the study was over after three months, the group of women who took yoga classes reported that the pain they felt was reduced after doing yoga for three months.
The other group of women who did not do yoga did not report any reduction in pain. In case you were thinking that the study was just based on self-reports, the women gave blood samples at the beginning of the study, at the half point of the study at six weeks and again at the end of the study three months later. The blood samples they gave were used to measure the level of blood proteins that signal inflammation.
After the twelve weeks were concluded, the women in the study were encouraged to continue doing yoga. They were even asked to keep a journal about their experiences doing yoga, including the number of minutes they spent doing it.
On the sixth month, the researchers followed-up on the women. They gave blood samples again to confirm that the proteins in their blood were lower than the women in the study who did not do yoga. And their blood proteins were lower.
1. The researchers concluded that it was the deep breathing and the meditation that allowed the women to relax and calm down.
2. Being more relaxed, the women were able to sleep and eat better.
3. The increased quality of sleep gave the women an increased feeling of vitality and they feel that they are able to do more of the things they used to do and the things they used to enjoy.
Important Note: The study makes no claim that yoga can heal cancer. It does not claim that yoga can keep the cancer from coming back or from spreading. It does provide one effective alternative to medication to decrease the pain, inflammation and anxiety that breast cancer survivor’s experience. Yoga increases a breast cancer survivor’s quality of life.