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Tai Chi and Qigong May Help Relieve Breast Cancer-related Fatigue
Sept 27, 2010 - Fatigue is prevalent in breast cancer survivors and has profound effects on daily life. A new research by the Harbin Medical University of Harbin, China found that the breast cancer patients who had mild cancer-related fatigue experienced reduced fatigue after practicing Tai Chi and/or Qigong.

Fatigue is the most frequently reported symptom among cancer patients, with an estimated 60-96% of cancer patients who are undergoing treatment experiencing fatigue, including 60-93% of radiotherapy and 80-96% chemotherapy patients. Compared with the fatigue experienced by healthy individuals, cancer-related fatigue is more severe, more distressing, and is less likely to be relieved by rest.

Activity enhancement and psychosocial interventions are two non-pharmacologic interventions with strong evidence for the treatment of fatigue. Regular exercise leads to a decrease in fatigue, depression, and anxiety both during and after cancer treatment in breast cancer patients. There is also some evidence that dietary management and sleep therapy can relieve fatigue symptoms.

The study done by the Harbin Medical University sought to identify the demographic, clinical, and lifestyle factors associated with cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients undergoing endocrine therapy in an urban area.

A cross-sectional study was performed to assess women living with breast cancer who had completed or were undergoing endocrine therapy in an urban area. These patients were diagnosed with breast cancer and/or received treatment for breast cancer at the Tumor Hospital of Harbin Medical University, Harbin, China, between June 2004 and September 2009. Patients had been diagnosed at an average of 31 months prior to recruitment; the average age was 48 (range, 33 to 72) years. All cases were confirmed by a pathological examination.

Among the 315 patients who participated in the study and responded to the researchers' questionnaire, 189 (60%) experienced or were experiencing cancer-related fatigue during endocrine therapy. Within these 189 patients, 173 (91.5%) had reduced cancer-related fatigue, whereas 16 (8.5%) had the same or increased fatigue. Among these patients who had reduced cancer-related fatigue, 43.9% and 24.9% of the patients performed Qigong and Tai Chi, respectively, and 11.2% performed both Qigong and Tai Chi.

Among the non-pharmacologic interventions, exercise showed the strongest evidence for a positive effect in the management of cancer-related fatigue. Physical activity has been beneficial in improving symptoms of fatigue in breast cancer survivors.

In the present study, 61.3% of the patients who reduced fatigue demonstrated active physical activity levels. This result might be due to the finding that most of the patients suffered from mild cancer-related fatigue (74.6%); they could perform some higher than moderate levels of exercise. Traditional Chinese sports games such as Qigong and Tai Chi are typical aerobic activities and are considered above the suggested physical activity level for cancer patients. Current recommendations for exercise among cancer patients are walking at a moderate pace for up to 30 min/day (slowly building up to 30 min/day) three or more times per week.

Moderate rather than vigorous exercise is preferable for patients and results in increased compliance. Further investigation is required to determine whether the present results are applicable to breast cancer patients with cancer-related fatigue.

This study was published by BMC Cancer, an open access journal, in August 2010.




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