An older woman in a pink shirt does yoga.

It turns out that yoga and lung cancer are a good match, offering benefits to both lung cancer patients and their caregivers, including stress relief and ease of breath. Read on to explore what a recent study discovered about the connection between dyadic yoga and lung cancer patients.

Dyadic Yoga for Lung Cancer Patients and Caregivers Appears to Optimize Treatment

While data has already shown some of the effects that yoga has on breast cancer patients, less research has been done regarding lung cancer. Considering the emphasis that yoga places on breathing exercises, researchers wanted to explore whether yoga could reduce patients’ dyspnea (shortness of breath).

An important aspect of this study was its emphasis on a dyadic approach: i.e. focusing on the interaction between two people – in this case, the patient and caregiver.

Because of the impact that lung cancer has on one’s ability to breathe, lung cancer patients are known to suffer from severe physical and psychological symptoms. However, family caregivers also report experience difficult symptoms, such as fatigue, sadness, and anxiety. This knowledge motivated the researchers to give the intervention to the patients and caregivers together.

About the Study

The yoga program consisted of 15 sessions, each an hour long, with both the patient and caregiver in attendance. The sessions incorporated four main components:

  1. Joint loosening with mindfulness training;
  2. Postures (asanas) with deep relaxation techniques;
  3. Breath energization (pranayama) with sound resonance; and
  4. Meditation/guided imagery.

Breathing exercises and physical postures were focused on opening up the chest area and muscles supporting the lungs. The yoga program was delivered to patients as they were undergoing radiotherapy (at least 25 fractions), as well as to their caregivers. Lead author Kathrin Milbury, PhD, (MD Anderson Cancer Center) explains the significance of the dyadic approach:

“One of the most important aspects of dyadic work is the patient is typically in the role of care recipient, so with this program, caregivers were also asked to receive support from the patient with respect to postures they underwent. They helped each other get through the physical aspect of the intervention together, and then the meditations focused on loving kindness, compassion, mindfulness, and acceptance of each other.”

Read more about the study.

Study Results

The researchers’ initial assumption was correct: the study showed that dyadic yoga therapy delivered to patients with lung cancer and their caregivers, together, appears to be a beneficial supportive care strategy that helps with treatment optimization.

The dyadic intervention had notable results. There was a clinically and statistically significant difference in patients’ 6-minute walk test, as well as clinically significant differences in role performance and mental health domains of the quality-of-life assessment. Although the effects were moderate, researchers also observed clinically significant improvements in caregivers’ vitality and role performance.

A summary of the results is as follows:

  • a) A dyadic yoga intervention for lung cancer patients and their caregivers demonstrated improvements in patients’ physical function, role performance, and mental health.
  • b) The investigators also observed clinically significant reductions in patients’ symptom burden.
  • c) Caregivers experienced improvements in vitality and role performance.
  • d) 96% of participants found program “very useful.”

An Individualized Approach to Cancer: Personalized Exercise Protocols

These findings are another example of the power of using precision oncology to treat cancer. Tailoring specific exercise protocols to an individual’s unique form of cancer can enhance the efficacy of the drug treatment while optimizing the overall treatment outcome. This is also true regarding personalized diets and lifestyle changes.

This study also highlights the importance of including caretakers into consideration when treating a patient. At CTOAM, we address the emotional and physical needs of not just the patient but also their close family and friends involved in caretaking. Contact our support team to learn more about our professional counselling services.

To discover what the most effective types of exercise & foods are for your cancer treatment plan, register for a Precision Second Opinion with our medical team today.

(This type of consultation can typically cost you thousands of dollars at treatment centres like the Mayo Clinic. We offer ours for a fraction of the price because we’re dedicated to helping as many cancer patients as possible.)

You can also see our patient survival statistics, which show that our Precision Oncology survival rates are higher than those of standard care.

When it comes to cancer, knowledge is power and time is of the essence.

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Based in Canada, CTOAM provides precision oncology services to cancer patients and their oncologists worldwide.

Milbury, et al., 2017. Randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a dyadic yoga program for lung cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy and their family caregivers. J Clin Oncol 35, 2017 (suppl 31S; abstract 125).

Published by on August 9, 2018