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More than 10 Ways Yoga Helps with Breast Cancer

October marks breast cancer awareness month and yoga has proven to be a helpful tool in managing the detrimental side effects of the disease. With 1 in 8 women being impacted by breast cancer during their lifetime, it’s imperative that we stay knowledgeable, advance research efforts, and take preventative measures.

Yoga is one of the leading complementary therapies for breast cancer. Controlled breath along with mindful movement of yoga practice has been shown to help mitigate the myriad of negative effects resulting from breast cancer (of all stages). Specifically, yoga can aid in fighting disease associated fatigue, stiffness, depression and anxiety. Some specific results are outlined below:

Quality of Life

Quality of life (QOL) is the measure of overall well being of an individual and their state of contentment based on physical, mental, emotional, and social factors. It’s no surprise that a diagnosis of cancer and its effects can lead to a lower QOL. However, the practice of yoga has been correlated with an improved QOL in people with breast cancer. A study at MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that breast cancer patients who engaged in a 6-week yoga intervention during radiotherapy experienced increased QOL, specifically the aspect of physical functioning, which can be extremely beneficial to curb radiotherapy’s side effects of fatigue, nausea, stiffness, and lymphedema.

Depression/Anxiety/Stress Reduction

Breast cancer survivors have shown heightened levels of cortisol which is associated with risk of immune dysfunction and reduced survivorship. Cortisol, a stress hormone, becomes elevated when production levels surge due to stressors such as fatigue, depression, and anxiety. In studies of patients with breast cancer, lowered levels of cortisol were measured in groups participating in yoga classes. This evidence demonstrates how yoga may help individuals manage response to stressors, which elicits itself in cortisol regulation-- all leading to lower rates of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

Fatigue and Inflammation

A major disruptor, fatigue and inflammation afflict around one third of breast cancer survivors on a daily basis. Inflammation and fatigue are often interrelated and can cause uncompromising decline in physical functioning. However, a regular yoga practice (two to three 90-minute sessions per week) can help combat the ill effects of sleep deprivation, fatigue, inflammation, and subsequent mood. A study from