Breast Cancer Patients Benefit From Yoga

05 Jun 2006

Breast cancer patients who do yoga tend to enjoy better health, less fatigue and experience less daytime sleepiness - this applies to women who are undergoing radiotherapy for their breast cancer, say scientists from the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, USA.

Lorenzo Cohen, study leader, said even a short yoga program - including meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises, stretching, imagery and physical movements - can be very useful at reducing the side effects that come with breast cancer treatment.


For Patients: Complementary Therapies to Smooth the Way During Cancer Treatment and Recovery       

Complementary and Alternative Cancer Medicine . Barrie R. Cassileth .From the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY.  Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 17, Issue 90001 (November), 1999: 44-52

Anxiety and Stress

Acupressure: Use the fingers of one hand to press inside the wrist of the other hand. Press for a minute or two approximately 1 inch above the hand crease. Pressing this acupoint relieves nausea as well as anxiety and stress.

Aromatherapy: Put a few drops of essential oil of rosemary, lavender, or camomile (available in health food stores and pharmacies) in the bath, or light a scented candle while relaxing. The fragrance is luxurious and calming.

Meditation and other relaxation techniques: These are opportunities for mini emotional vacations. Close your eyes and see yourself in a pleasant, peaceful place. Breathe deeply and slowly. Or lie down, eyes closed. Start at the toes and gradually move up the body as you consciously relax each body part. Your body and mind will relax accordingly.

Music therapy: Music has important physiologic as well as emotional benefits. It calms, distracts, and soothes at a very fundamental level of being.

Therapeutic massage: Visit a licensed, certified massage therapist who is experienced with people undergoing cancer therapy, or arrange for that person to visit you. Or have a friend or family member gently massage your neck and shoulders, hands and feet. Weekly therapeutic massages will keep you feeling well. Patients with lymphatic cancers should avoid touch massage.

Valerian: Make a tea from 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried root from this herb. You may prefer capsules because the tea doesn't have a pleasant odor (health food stores and pharmacies have both). It is safe and nonaddictive, and it effectively reduces anxiety and brings about sleep.

Yoga: Take a class, rent a videotape, borrow a book, and practice postures along with deep breathing techniques. Anyone can do yoga, even while bedridden. It is said to bring mind, body, and spirit together in a peaceful union. Regardless of the way in which it works, yoga relaxes.

Backache or Muscle Ache
Capsicum cream: Hot red peppers contain a powerful pain-relieving chemical called "capsaicin." It is the active ingredient in many rub-on pharmaceutical pain relievers. Blend or mash a red pepper. Add some of the mashed red pepper to white body lotion or cold cream until the lotion turns pink. Rub it on the sore spots. Or spend a few dollars on a cream that contains capsaicin.

Hydrotherapy: A warm bath or Jacuzzi should help relieve muscle aches.

Massage: Try a professional massage by a licensed, certified massage therapist or a careful muscle massage by a friend or relative. Patients with lymphatic cancers should avoid touch massage.

Willow tea: The bark of the willow tree contains salicin, the active ingredient in aspirin. (Avoid this herb if aspirin causes upset stomach or if your doctor told you to use an aspirin substitute.)

Colds and Influenza (Flu)
Garlic: Eat raw or cooked garlic, or try deodorized garlic capsules.

Echinacea: Take this herb when you feel a cold coming on, and you may reduce its duration. It also relieves symptoms. Echinacea works as a tea or capsule. Avoid if you have allergies to ragweed, daisy, or sunflower.

Eucalyptus or peppermint oil: Place in a steam vaporizer and inhale.

Ginger: Make a large cup of tea with 2 tablespoons of shaved ginger and boiling water. It's an effective way to relieve cold symptoms, and it tastes good too. Add some chopped ginger to this or any other tea for its special benefits as an expectorant and cough suppressant.

Iceland moss and plantain: Tea from these herbs soothes sore throats and helps calm colds and flu.

Watercress tea: Tea made with watercress or fresh watercress helps treat cough and running nose.

Zinc lozenges: Studies show they may reduce the duration of a cold or flu.

Cascara: Fluid extracts or capsules of cascara or buckthorn bark, a related herb, work well. Over-the-counter laxatives often contain chemicals from one of these herbs.

Plantago seed: Also called psyllium seed, this is an effective herbal laxative. Take it with plenty of water.

Pureed rhubarb: Flavored with apple juice, lemon, and honey, pureed rhubarb is a delicious way to solve the problem.

Water and fiber: Water (six to eight glasses a day) and fiber (fruit, bran cereal, prunes) consumed regularly should keep this problem away, and regular exercise is also helpful.

Depression Hypericum: Also known as St. John's wort, hypericum is a common herb that blooms around the time of St. John's birthday, hence its name. It is a proven antidepressant for mild or moderate problems. It probably does not work as well for more serious depression, which requires pharmaceuticals, but that issue is under study. Capsules are readily available over the counter. St. John's wort has few if any side effects. Do not take with any prescription medication for depression.

Licorice: Black licorice contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors. These are the same antidepressant chemicals found in prescription pharmaceutical products such as phenelzine and tranylcypromine. Licorice is powerful medicine. As with any monoamine oxidase inhibitor, avoid smoked foods and aged cheeses, alcohol, narcotics, and cold and allergy remedies, and do not take it if you are on any prescription medication for depression or if you have an adrenal disorder. Add some to an herbal tea that has its own antidepressant properties, such as tea made with ginger, purslane, or rosemary.

Light therapy: These are bright-light boxes that are placed at eye level on a desk or table. Light boxes are made specifically to reduce depression, and they are especially effective in northern parts of the world where sunlight is rare or during winter months in the northern hemisphere. Light boxes are used in mainstream medicine and recommended by psychiatrists to treat seasonal affective disorder.

Meditation and yoga: These are very helpful for depression as well as anxiety (see Anxiety and Stress).

Tai chi: This gentle exercise program is practiced daily by millions of older Chinese. Follow the slow motions, which typically mimic animal movements, as displayed in books, videos, and classes. Research shows that tai chi not only lifts depressed mood, but that it also improves bodily balance, reduces falls, and increases physical strength.

Diarrhea Relieve diarrhea with agrimony or peppermint tea; applesauce or cooked carrots; dried blackberry, blueberry, or raspberry leaves; dried blueberry fruit; or up to two teaspoons of pulverized seeds from the herb fenugreek.

Headache Acupressure: Press the acupoint between your eyebrows or in the hollows at the base of the skull on both sides of the spine.

Evening primrose tea: sunflower seeds, garlic, and onion relieve headaches, too.

Feverfew: Make tea (steep six to eight leaves in boiling water; avoid further boiling because it will break down the active chemicals) or take capsules of fresh or freeze-dried leaf. Add bay leaves to feverfew tea to increase effectiveness against headaches, including migraines.

Progressive relaxation or massage: See Anxiety and Stress.

Heartburn Herb teas: Especially ginger, camomile, and licorice.

Salad items: Including lettuce, onion, garlic, and olives. Walnuts, in addition to fennel or anise tea, also help.

Indigestion Peppermint or chamomile tea.

Nausea Acupressure: Press inside of wrist with fingers of other hand. (See Anxiety and Stress).

Cinnamon or peppermint tea.

Ginger: Use tea, capsules, or candy. Add fresh shaved gingerroot to boiled water to make tea, or add sugar and gelatin to the boiled ginger water and let it cool. Cut into cubes and eat as candy. Ginger ale or cookies, if made with real ginger and not flavoring, work too.

Chronic Pain Acupuncture: Consult the yellow pages in your local telephone directory for a licensed, accredited acupuncture doctor. Properly trained acupuncturists use disposable stainless steel needles and do a virtually painless job.

Biofeedback: This requires equipment and a trained biofeedback therapist. Check the telephone book. Many pain clinics and pain management experts in hospitals use biofeedback or can make referrals.

Useful herbs: External capsicum (see Backache or Muscle Ache), sunflower seeds (eat them or grind them with some oil or water and apply to skin), willow bark ("natural aspirin") tea (avoid if you have been instructed to not take aspirin), mountain mint leaf tea (apply the cooked leaves to the skin).

Hypnotherapy: Some people can eliminate chronic pain, or reduce it substantially, with hypnosis. Pain clinics, the telephone book, and your nurse or doctor are good referral sources for certified hypnotherapists.

Massage: See Anxiety and Stress.

Sleep Problems Relax in a warm bath scented with lavender oil, drink lemon balm herb tea, or try massage or meditation. Make tea of fresh or dried passionflower herbs, valerian root, or chamomile.