The study examined qigong in patients receiving radiation therapy and included a follow-up period to assess its benefits over time, according to researchers.
“We were [...] particularly interested to see if qigong would benefit patients experiencing depressive symptoms at the start of treatment,” said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science.
“It is important for cancer patients to manage stress because it can have a profoundly negative effect on biological systems and inflammatory profiles.”
For the study, Cohen and his colleagues recruited 96 women with stage 1-3 breast cancer from Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center in Shanghai, China.
About half of the women — 49 — were randomly assigned to a qigong group consisting of five 40-minute classes each week during their five-to-six week course of radiation therapy. The remaining 47 women comprised a control group receiving standard care.
The program incorporated a modified version of Chinese medical qigong, which consisted of synchronizing one’s breath with various exercises, the researchers explained.
Participants in both groups completed assessments at the beginning, middle and end of radiation therapy and then one and three months later. Different aspects of quality of life were measured, including depressive symptoms, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and overall quality of life.
According to the researchers, patients in the qigong group reported a steady decline in depressive symptom scores beginning at the end of radiation therapy, with a mean score of 12.3, through the three month post-radiation follow-up with a score of 9.5. No changes were noted in the control group over time, the study found.
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