A new study shows which complementary therapies work best for women with breast cancer. The study indicates that mind-body therapies, such as meditation and yoga, have the best track record.
Studies indicate that many people with cancer use complementary therapies. Their reasons may include relieving stress and anxiety, reducing pain or discomfort, or improving their sense of well-being. The category includes everything from taking herbs to practicing yoga and more. Considering this range, there remains an important question: Which complementary treatments actually work?
Gary Deng, Medical Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Integrative Medicine Service, and his colleagues conducted an extensive analysis of more than 1,000 publications on the effectiveness of various complementary therapies in women with breast cancer. Their findings were published recently in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. We asked Dr. Deng to provide an overview of which therapies are supported by solid evidence and which should be regarded with caution.
We found the strongest evidence of benefit from mind-body therapies, such as meditation, yoga, and stress-reduction techniques. Meditation in particular seems to work well for reducing anxiety, treating symptoms of depression, and improving overall quality of life. Music therapy, yoga, and massage also seem to help with these symptoms. In addition to being effective, these therapies are low risk, so there is little downside to using them. They should be considered as a routine part of care for most people with cancer.