This site is intended for health professionals only

Yoga and exercise help early-stage breast cancer patients

Women with early-stage breast cancer should be encouraged to exercise and practice yoga in order to improve their quality of life, say researchers.

A study of 242 women found that aerobic exercise can help to improve women's physical fitness, self-esteem and body composition.

Resistance training that improved muscle strength and lean body mass also improved women's chemotherapy completion rates. The study authors speculate this is because exercise can increase patient's white blood cell counts.

"Breast cancer patients can exercise while they're receiving chemotherapy and achieve meaningful benefits in terms of physical fitness, body composition and self esteem," said lead author Kerry Courneya at the University of Alberta.

A second study of 84 women demonstrated that yoga was particularly beneficial for women receiving chemotherapy.

"Yoga can promote quality of life for women with breast cancer by helping them connect with others and feel calmer," said lead author Alyson Moadel, at the Albert Einsten College of Medicine.

"Because yoga was well-received by all cultural and socioeconomic groups, It has the potential to help many women with early-stage breast cancer."

The authors suggest that if women cannot attend group yoga sessions then they should consider using videotapes at home or practising breathing exercises while they receive treatment.

Journal of Clinical Oncology

Your comments: (Terms and conditions)

"I had a mastectomy and reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiotherapy 18 months ago. Exercise was part of my life before breast cancer and I didn't see any reason why that should change. In fact, I was in the gym doing light work 7 days post-op! It helped me to feel normal, and also helped me to recover well from the surgery and the treatement afterwards. I am a very positive person anyway, but exercise helped to lift my spirits. I feel proud of the way that I coped with breat cancer and I encourage other women with breast cancer to try and do things that they normally did before - but especially exercise" - Pam Brojaka, Nottingham