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Cancer fatigue and stress lessened by Qigong

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Senior prostate cancer survivor’s combat fatigue and stress by ancient Chinese practice

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Qigong an ancient Chinese practice that combine’s intentional, controlled breathing with slow, graceful movements that are said to encourage the flow of qi or chi (vital energy) in the body. Promoting chi throughout the body is thought to aid in healing, endurance and spiritual balance.

Fatigue is one of the most common and distressing side effects of cancer and its treatment, particularly for prostate cancer survivors receiving androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), a hormone therapy with the goal to reduce levels of male hormones (androgens) in the body, or to prevent them from reaching prostate cancer cells. Leaving patients with a subjective sense of physical, emotional or cognitive exhaustion may persist for months or years following treatment. It greatly diminishes survivors' quality of life by limiting their ability to perform daily activities and causes significant distress.

Cancer patients are often advised to participate in physical activity as a non-pharmacological way to manage cancer-related fatigue and levels of distress. The benefits of exercise are well documented in a number of cancers especially in areas of fatigue and physical functioning. With this in mind Dr. Anita Kinney, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine , Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences in the University of New Mexico Cancer Center and Dr. Rebecca Campo, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Program on Integrative Medicine, conducted a 12 week randomized trial at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, to examine the feasibility and efficacy of a Qigong intervention for improving older prostate cancer survivors' levels of fatigue and distress.

For the study 40 older participants, median age 72, age ranged from 58 to 93 years, prostate cancer survivors were recruited and were assigned at random to 12 weeks of either Qigong or stretching classes. Primary outcomes were feasibility (retention and attendance rates) and fatigue [Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy—Fatigue (FACIT-Fatigue), a self-administered fatigue-assessment tool that has found wide application across diverse medical fields and that has demonstrated validity and utility across a broad range of populations, and secondary outcome was distress [Brief Symptom Inventory-18 (BSI-18)], measure psychological distress and psychiatric disorders in medical and community populations.

The results showed study retention rates showed no significant difference between the two groups, 80% for Qigong and 65% for stretching. The Qigong group had significantly higher class attendance compared to the stretching group.

Qigong participants reported significant declines in how much fatigue or distress they experienced, compared to those who participated in the stretching class,: said Dr. Kinney.

The team writes “This 12-week Qigong intervention was feasible and potentially efficacious in improving senior prostate cancer survivors' levels of fatigue and distress levels. Future, larger definitive randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these benefits in older prostate cancer survivors and in racially and ethnically diverse populations.”

According to Dr. Campo, "Qigong may be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for the management of senior prostate cancer survivors' fatigue and distress.”

This study is published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

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