Two new studies published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs and Cancer suggest that the practices of meditation, yoga and relaxation with imagery are beneficial for breast cancer patients. Most noteworthy is perhaps that scientists found physical health benefits accompanied the mental health benefits of these activities. Yoga and meditation are already considered good activities for relieving stress, and could prove beneficial if regularly practiced by medical assistants or pharmacy technicians.The scientists state that further research is needed to quantify the exact benefits, but this could strengthen the long-suggested correlation between good mental and physical health.1
Study No. 1
The first study, published in JNCI Monographs, titled “Clinical practice guidelines on the use of integrative therapies as supportive care in patients treated for breast cancer,” aggregated information from 4,900 studies published between 1990 and 2013. The study ranked a wide range of therapeutic practices including meditation, yoga, relaxation with imagery, massage, music therapy and energy conservation, among others.2 Yoga, meditation and relaxation with imagery were given an A grade and were considered viable care options for breast cancer patients.
Each care option was ranked based on how well it could help patients cope with the stress and anxiety that come with a breast cancer diagnosis. The researchers were optimistic that yoga and meditation could one day become part of how hospitals help patients deal with the emotional trauma of cancer.
Study No. 2
The second study, published in Cancer, titled “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors,” measured telomere length in 88 distressed breast cancer survivors after they participated in various mindfulness-based cancer recovery practices.3 Though the exact causes are uncertain, shortened telomeres are associated with several disease states, according to Medical Express.1
In a randomized controlled trial, researchers placed patients in groups that either focused on mindfulness meditation and gentle Hatha yoga or emotional support group therapy. Though no differences were detected between the two therapy types, researchers found a trend that psychosocial therapies ultimately had an effect on telomere length.
The team concluded that psychosocial interventions not only provide stress reduction, but also resulted in telomere length maintenance.
“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology,” says Dr. Linda E. Carlson, lead investigator of the study, who is an author on the other study as well.1
These two studies emphasize the importance of medical health for those in stressful or traumatic situations. While yoga and meditation have long been praised for providing mental health benefits, more research could eventually quantify these activities as a facet of a robust treatment plan. Such findings could ultimately have an effect on the health care industry and alter the treatment services hospitals and other health care facilities provide for patients.
1 “Study shows clear new evidence for mind-body connection,” Medical Express. November 3, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-11-evidence-mind-body.html
2 “Clinical practice guidelines on the use of integrative therapies as supportive care in patients treated for breast cancer,” by Heather Greenlee, Lynda G. Balneaves, Linda E. Carlson, Misha Cohen, Gary Deng, Dawn Hershman, Matthew Mumber, Jane Perlmutter, Dugald Seely, Ananda Sen, Suzanna M. Zick, Debu Tripathy, JNCI Monographs. http://jncimono.oxfordjournals.org/content/2014/50/346.abstract
3 “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors,” by Linda E. Carlson PhD, Tara L. Beattie PhD, Janine Giese-Davis PhD, Peter Faris PhD, Rie Tamagawa PhD, Laura J. Fick PhD, Erin S. Degelman MSc and Michael Speca PsyD, Cancer, November 3, 2014. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.29063/full