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Mind-Body Practices Good for Cancer Patients

CancerWise - May 2008

By Darcy De Leon

Mind-body practices, such as yoga and Tai Chi, can be very helpful to people with cancer, and researchers studying their benefits encourage all patients to engage in them at whatever level they can.

"There are many practices out there, and it's important to do something," says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., director of M. D. Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Program. "If you don't find a practice that's useful at first, try a different one and do it at your own pace. It's also important to seek a practitioner who has experience working with cancer patients."

Patients also should talk to their physicians to make sure they are healthy enough to participate.

Cohen's recommendation stems from the results of ongoing research at
M. D. Anderson involving cancer patients practicing Tai Chi, Qigong, Hatha yoga, Tibetan yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques.

Mind-body practices offer many benefits

M. D. Anderson studies have examined these practices for patients with rectal, breast and prostate cancer, as well as renal cell carcinoma and lymphoma.

"We know from our research that a mind-body practice is useful for helping to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and distress, and improve mood in general," Cohen says. "It's also helpful in promoting a calm and relaxed state. And we've also seen from the physiological side that mind-body practices decrease stress hormones and blood pressure, and also improve aspects of physical function and physical well-being.

"So we encourage all cancer patients to engage in some type of mind-body practice throughout their cancer treatment into recovery and survival and to incorporate it as a daily activity for the rest of their lives."

M. D. Anderson resources:

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center