Breast cancer sufferers who are undergoing radiotherapy could benefit from yoga classes, research has suggested.
Yoga was found to give a new lease of life to patients, not only fighting fatigue but also reducing stress and improving physical function.
The study, carried out by researchers in the US, involved 163 women with an average age of 52.
Participants attended one-hour sessions of yoga or simple stretching for three days a week during a six-week course of radiation treatment.
A reduction in fatigue was reported by women in the yoga and stretching groups, compared with those who did not receive any training.
Those learning yoga also developed a more positive attitude to their cancer than women in the other groups and had the steepest daily declines in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This was considered important because higher cortisol levels have been linked to worse outcomes in breast cancer.
The research will be presented next month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.
Study leader Professor Lorenzo Cohen, from the University of Texas in Houston, US, said: "The combination of mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical distress associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching."
"Interesting, I would have liked to have been aware of this when I was receiving radiation treatment. I had to work while I was having my breast cancer treatment, I felt exhausted the majority of the time. Even 2 years on I become overwhelmed with tiredness on occasions. Pilates has helped with improving my stamina. Being a nurse my feelings towards my cancer were irritation at the inconvenience of the disease. I would have been curious as to what my cortisol levels were; as a civilian I was helping to reorganise a department in the Royal Navy which I enjoyed enormously and kept me sane" - Suzanne Harwood, Hampshire