A new study conducted by several major oncology facilities has discovered that meditation, yoga and relaxation with imagery are the therapies that benefit patients the most. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study involved researchers from Colombia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, MD Anderson, University of Michigan, Memorial Sloan Kettering and more.

According to the American Cancer Society, up to 80% of American patients with breast cancer will undergo complementary therapies in order to manage anxiety and stress after they receive a diagnosis.

More and more medical practices have incorporated practices like mindfulness and acupuncture into their repertoire available to patients. Although until this study there has been authority on which integrative and alternative therapies work and which are ineffective. 

Researchers in the study parsed through clinical trials conducted from 1990-2013 on complementary therapies paired with routine cancer treatment, like chemotherapy. The researchers then graded each therapy based on efficacy.

Meditation, yoga and relaxation with imagery are known to be calming for those who practice them and the researchers gave these practices an “A” for treating symptoms of mood disorders that are highly common among people with a recent diagnosis. Acupuncture received a “B” for controlling chemo nausea, and music therapy also received a “B” for anxiety and stress.

Researchers also gave some therapies low grades. Healing touch was given a “C” for lowering pain, and aloe vera gel was not recommended at all for preventing skin reactions from radiation therapy.

Researchers also point out that while some natural products were shown to be effective; there is no safety data to back up the effectiveness. More formal research is needed before some of the therapies can be officially recommended.

The study asserts that women with breast cancer are among the highest users of these types of therapies and the usage has been increasing. As patients with breast cancer and other forms of cancer increasingly seek other way to deal with some of the emotional side effects, hospitals needs clear clinical practice guidelines.


Gerry Oginski
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