Women with operable breast cancer preparing for surgery and undergoing treatment after surgery can reduce their depression by practicing yoga, according to new research published in the Indian Journal of Palliative Care.
Depression is a common occurrence in breast cancer patients after their mastectomy and while undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The majority of patients report some degree of anxiety, depression, and an inability to return to daily activities. Up to 58 percent of cancer patients experience depression before, during, and after their treatment. In breast cancer patients, this may be related to reactions to their mastectomy, pain, and adverse effects due to chemotherapy and medications.
Reducing depression plays a heavy influence in lowering treatment related distress which in turn helps improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Yoga is an ancient Indian science that has been used therapeutically for mental stress relief in many healthcare areas. Previous studies have shown that yoga has had a positive effect on reducing symptoms in those who have been psychiatrically diagnosed with depression.
For the study, researchers recruited 98 female patients diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 70. A one hour per day yoga intervention over a period of six months was used to test the effect on their self-reported depression status after surgery, during and after radiotherapy, and during and after chemotherapy.
A significant decrease in depression was reported after surgery (42%), radiotherapy (29%), and chemotherapy (29%). Lowered depression was also seen in patients during their radiotherapy treatments (28%) and chemotherapy treatments (40%).
The antidepressant effects of yoga can be linked to its effect on stress reduction and not just social support. Earlier studies have shown better results in cancer patient recovery when stress reduction techniques were also implemented into their care.
Practicing yoga helps reduce the amount of psychophysiological stimulation by lowering sympathetic nerve activity, balancing autonomic nervous system responses, altering neuroendocrine excitement, and decreasing the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) that is produced in the morning.
Overall, the study shows hope for reducing stress and depression in those diagnosed with operable breast cancer who have gone through surgery and are undergoing cancer treatment.