meditation & breast cancer

Mindfulness meditation seems to soothe breast cancer survivors

HealthDay News, MedlinePlus: Mindfulness meditation seems to help breast cancer patients better manage symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and fear of recurrence, a new study suggests.

Previous research has found that mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and anxiety in the general population as well as in breast cancer survivors. But, there hadn’t been many large, clinical trials to test the value of the practice among breast cancer patients, said study author Cecile Lengacher, director of the predoctoral fellowship program at the University of South Florida, in Tampa.

In her study, those who took part in the six-week …

Read the original article »

Read More

Clear new evidence for mind-body connection demonstrated in study

wildmind meditation newsFor the first time, researchers have shown that practising mindfulness meditation or being involved in a support group has a positive physical impact at the cellular level in breast cancer survivors.

A group working out of Alberta Health Services’ Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the University of Calgary Department of Oncology has demonstrated that telomeres — protein complexes at the end of chromosomes — maintain their length in breast cancer survivors who practise meditation or are involved in support groups, while they shorten in a comparison group without any intervention.

Although the disease-regulating properties of telomeres aren’t fully understood, shortened telomeres are associated with several disease states, as well as cell aging, while longer telomeres are thought to be protective against disease.

“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology,” says Dr. Linda E. Carlson, PhD, principal investigator and director of research in the Psychosocial Resources Department at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

“It was surprising that we could see any difference in telomere length at all over the three-month period studied,” says Dr. Carlson, who is also a U of C professor in the Faculty of Arts and the Cumming School of Medicine, and a member of the Southern Alberta Cancer Institute. “Further research is needed to better quantify these potential health benefits, but this is an exciting discovery that provides encouraging news.”

The study was published online in the journal Cancer.

A total of 88 breast cancer survivors who had completed their treatments for at least three months were involved for the duration of the study. The average age was 55 and most participants had ended treatment two years prior. To be eligible, they also had to be experiencing significant levels of emotional distress.

In the Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery group, participants attended eight weekly, 90-minute group sessions that provided instruction on mindfulness meditation and gentle Hatha yoga, with the goal of cultivating non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Participants were also asked to practise meditation and yoga at home for 45 minutes daily.

In the Supportive Expressive Therapy group, participants met for 90 minutes weekly for 12 weeks and were encouraged to talk openly about their concerns and their feelings. The objectives were to build mutual support and to guide women in expressing a wide range of both difficult and positive emotions, rather than suppressing or repressing them.
The participants randomly placed in the control group attended one, six-hour stress management seminar.

All study participants had their blood analysed and telomere length measured before and after the interventions.
Scientists have shown a short-term effect of these interventions on telomere length compared to a control group, but it’s not known if the effects are lasting. Dr. Carlson says another avenue for further research is to see if the psychosocial interventions have a positive impact beyond the three months of the study period.

Allison McPherson was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. When she joined the study, she was placed in the mindfulness-based cancer recovery group. Today, she says that experience has been life-changing.

“I was skeptical at first and thought it was a bunch of hocus-pocus,” says McPherson, who underwent a full year of chemotherapy and numerous surgeries. “But I now practise mindfulness throughout the day and it’s reminded me to become less reactive and kinder toward myself and others.”

Study participant Deanne David was also placed in the mindfulness group.

“Being part of this made a huge difference to me,” she says. “I think people involved in their own cancer journey would benefit from learning more about mindfulness and connecting with others who are going through the same things.”

Read More

Meditation may benefit breast cancer survivors

wildmind meditation newsPractising mindfulness meditation can have a positive physical impact at the cellular level in breast cancer survivors, a new study has found.

Canadian researchers from Alberta Health Services’ Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the University of Calgary Department of Oncology have demonstrated that telomeres – protein complexes at the end of chromosomes – maintain their length in breast cancer survivors who practise meditation or are involved in support groups, while they shorten in a comparison group without any intervention.

Although the disease-regulating properties of telomeres aren’t fully understood, shortened telomeres are associated with several disease states, as well as cell ageing, while longer …

Read the original article »

Read More

Mindfulness meditation as a way to heal and cope with cancer

When it comes to cancer, stress can be a cause and effect; reducing it is a big part of both the prevention and the treatment of illness.

Mindfulness meditation, the practice of clearing the mind through deep breathing exercises, is becoming an increasingly widespread part of healing and coping with cancer.

Dr. Miroslava Lhotsky, one of the facilitators of Mindfulness Meditation Toronto, is a physician who spent years delivering bad news to women whose mammograms had revealed breast cancer.

“You can imagine the kind of adrenaline that flows in their body …

Read the original article »

Read More

Simple meditation helps in many ways

Julie Deardorff, Tribune Newspapers: Regular practice shown to decrease symptoms of stress and depression.

A simple form of mindful meditation can help breast cancer survivors stave off the symptoms of depression, new research suggests. But the potential benefits don’t stop there.

Meditation may help wipe out some of those repetitive thoughts about the past or future that can clutter the mind once treatment ends. It may also reduce loneliness and decrease the body’s inflammatory response to stress — which can trigger serious illness — according to a small study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

“Mindfulness meditation is particularly effective in buffering …

Read the original article »

Read More

Meditation puts pain in its proper place

wildmind meditation news

We sat in the cool, calm and peaceful surroundings of The (Breast Cancer) Haven in Fulham, London. We closed our eyes and listened to Dr. Caroline Hoffman take us through a Mindfulness experience. This form of meditation was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the 1970’s and has become hugely popular with all sorts of unlikely participants. We were there to see and hear how it might benefit not only those with breast cancer, but almost everyone. We concentrated on our breathing, trying to be “in the moment”, focusing on the five senses and, all the time, returning our busy minds to the here and now.

Explaining the technique, Dr. Hoffman used the much-quoted – and mostly misquoted – line from James Joyce’s “A Painful Case”. “He (Mr. James Duffy) lived at a little distance from his body …”. I have seen this line used by all those involved in meditation, yoga and all forms of somatics to illustrate why we would benefit from their particular therapy. It might be better to quote from the rest of Mr Joyce’s description “He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense”.

Whether we are to blame for our own high stress levels – trying to pack too much into our lives, aided by constantly developing technology – or whether they are put upon us through illness, there is no doubt that we all need to de-stress ourselves and the Mindfulness technique allows us to quell our “monkey minds”, stop them jumping from past to future and bring them back to our centre.

Last year, I visited Dr. Hoffman at The Haven, when she was in the throes of a large and rigorous study to investigate the impact of MBSR on women with breast cancer (I wrote a blog post about it here).

Earlier this year, Dr. Hoffman’s study was published online by the Journal of Oncology and the results show, for the first time, that the use of Mindfulness offers a “statistically significant improvement in physical and emotional wellbeing”. Since then Mindfulness has been in the news – from The Today Programme’s “Thought for the Day” to a BBC Breakfast’s item on how Mindfulness has helped a woman patient deal with the pain from lupus. She said: “It doesn’t take away the pain but it puts it in its place – down a notch or two”. Brain scans showed obvious changes when she used the technique and it has been clinically proven to thicken the brain’s grey matter and change the brain’s euro pathways – thus increasing cognitive ability, concentration, emotional resilience and enhancing awareness.

Nice has approved Mindfulness for treatment of mental health issues, including obesity and anorexia. Consequently, companies are setting up “Mindfulness meal breaks” where food is not eaten accompanied by a blackberry, iPad or laptop, but slowly, noticing what is being eaten – the flavour, colour, smell and texture. It works, no over-eating occurs because, after 20 minutes, the brain registers a full stomach and stops eating.

Companies like Apple and Google have been offering classes in Mindfulness to their employees for years and, astonishingly (to me, at least) Transport for London’s tube drivers have found enormous help from the technique. Turning up for a two hour session once a week for six weeks at the end of their shift. Tfl pays for this, and you can see why: stress-related absenteeism has dropped by 70 percent.

Next will come the nurses. Mindfulness at Work has just received accreditation from the Royal College of Nursing – which means that nurses, osteopaths and any other health professionals under the RCN can sign up for a 45 minute session each week for four weeks, which will count towards their Continual Professional Development hours.

The cost to the NHS is £25 per person – a very good deal, particularly if it helps nurses to better observe, listen and understand their patients. This is important because stress is always cited as the cause of nursing failure. Imagine how many problems could be prevented if nurses were better able to keep their emotions in check.

Caroline Hopkins from Mindfulness at Work told me of the success she has had with members of a particularly notorious gang in Birmingham. The gang members embraced the technique and, by practicing regularly and keeping “cue” cards in their pockets, their neural pathways are changing from reacting to responding and they are learning to become aware of the effect of their actions on the recipients.

It is compelling stuff and it does make me wonder what would happen to the number of cancer cases if we all learned Mindfulness from a young age. What do you think?

Original article no longer available.

Read More

Breast cancer survivors benefit from meditation

wildmind meditation news

Women recently diagnosed with breast cancer have higher survival rates than those diagnosed in previous decades, according to the American Cancer Society. However, survivors continue to face health challenges after their treatments end. Previous research reports as many as 50 percent of breast cancer survivors are depressed. Now, University of Missouri researchers in the Sinclair School of Nursing say a meditation technique can help breast cancer survivors improve their emotional and physical well-being.

Yaowarat Matchim, a former nursing doctoral student; Jane Armer, professor of nursing; and Bob Stewart, professor emeritus of education and adjunct faculty in nursing, found that breast cancer survivors’ health improved after they learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a type of mindfulness training that incorporates meditation, yoga and physical awareness.

“MBSR is another tool to enhance the lives of breast cancer survivors,” Armer said. “Patients often are given a variety of options to reduce stress, but they should choose what works for them according to their lifestyles and belief systems.”

The MBSR program consists of group sessions throughout a period of eight to ten weeks. During the sessions, participants practice meditation skills, discuss how bodies respond to stress and learn coping techniques. The researchers found that survivors who learned MBSR lowered their blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. In addition, participants’ mood improved, and their level of mindfulness increased after taking the class. Armer says, for best results, participants should continue MBSR after the class ends to maintain the positive effects.

“Mindfulness-based meditation, ideally, should be practiced every day or at least on a routine schedule,” Armer said. “MBSR teaches patients new ways of thinking that will give them short- and long-term benefits.”

Armer says the non-pharmaceutical approach works best as a complement to other treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

“Post diagnosis, breast cancer patients often feel like they have no control over their lives,” Armer said. “Knowing that they can control something—such as meditation—and that it will improve their health, gives them hope that life will be normal again.”

The study, “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Health Among Breast Cancer Survivors,” was published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Meditation may help women cope with hot flashes An easy-to-learn meditation technique can help ease the hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia of menopause, a new study says.

The University of Massachusetts research showed that mindfulness training, based on a Buddhist meditation concept, reduced the distress associated with hot flashes and improved physical, psychosocial and sexual functioning.

“The findings are important because hormone replacement therapy, used to treat menopause symptoms in the past, has been associated with health risks,” said study author James Carmody, an associate professor of medicine in the division of preventive and behavioral medicine.

About 40 percent of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes and night sweats, which undermine their quality of life, the researchers noted. But since hormone replacement therapy has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer and stroke, Carmody observed that “not only are women looking for alternative treatments, it is an NIH (National Institutes of Health) priority to find behavioral treatments.”

No other treatment has been found to substitute for hormone therapy, according to the study, but mindfulness training appears to allow women to be “less reactive” to menopausal symptoms.

Mindfulness therapy helps focus on the present. Practitioners avoid making judgments and simply accept whatever is passing through their mind while focusing on each breath. The technique is not difficult to learn, but requires some discipline Read the rest of this article…

in the beginning, experts noted.

The researchers aimed to influence women’s reaction to their symptoms, “including psychological distress, social embarrassment and anxiety.”

“We wanted to see if we could affect women’s resilience in response to these symptoms,” Carmody explained. “We were not trying to affect the symptoms themselves, although there was some effect on those as well.”

The study divided 110 women between the ages of 47 and 69 into two groups, one receiving the training, the other “waitlisted” to learn the technique.

Participants filled out questionnaires to determine factors known to influence hot flashes, such as alcohol use, yoga and exercise.

Researchers also measured four dimensions of quality of life: physical, psychosocial, vasomotor (hot flashes), and sexual function. The women rated how much they were bothered by symptoms on a four-point scale ranging from “not at all” to “extremely” bothered. They kept diaries noting the number and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats. On average, the women had five or more moderate to severe hot flashes, or night sweats, a day when the study began.

After taking classes once a week for eight weeks, and a full day of training, the training group women had an average decrease of 15 percent in how much their symptoms bothered them vs. 7 percent for the control group. While hot flash intensity did not differ significantly, the training group reported better sleep, and less anxiety and perceived stress.

At the beginning of the study, which ran from November 2005 to September 2007, participants had “clinically significant” sleep problems. Improved sleep was an important outcome, the study found.

“The thing that surprised us the most was the effect on sleep,” said Carmody, noting that mindfulness training was found to be as effective as hormone replacement therapy in reducing insomnia.

Another expert praised the study for using the “mind-body connection” to help women with serious menopause symptoms with “no side effects.”

“We’ve known about the mind-body connection,” said Dr. Jill M. Rabin. “We’re just beginning to unlock the power of the mind to have an impact on our physiological selves.”

The study authors were “self-critical regarding the limitations of the study,” said Rabin, chief of the division of ambulatory care and head of urogynecology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Among other things, the study lacked an active control group program, they wrote.

Noting that the women were mostly white and had a high level of education, Rabin said more study was needed to see if the results apply to the general population.

“It’s not that the results don’t apply, or will be different for a different population,” she said. “We just don’t know.”

The research is published in the June issue of Menopause.

Read More

Meditation helps cancer patients years after diagnosis

NEW YORK (Reuters Health): Weekly courses in meditation, yoga and communication can improve the quality of life for cancer patients years after their diagnosis, according to data presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons in Washington, D.C.

“It’s important for doctors to know that their patients may still experience psychological distress and they need to ask about it and have resources available,” Dr. Ruth Lerman, who led the research at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, told Reuters Health.

“I think that the health value of meditation is remarkable. And it’s becoming accepted now in Western medicine,” she added.

Dr. Lerman’s team randomized 68 female cancer patients, 52 of whom had survived breast cancer, Read the rest of this article…

to a treatment group of 48 or a control group of 20.

The treatment group attended weekly 2-hour classes for 8 weeks, while the control group was on a waiting list. The mean age was 58 years in the two groups, and both had similar types of cancers and had been diagnosed an average of 4 years before the study began.

The patients in the workshop learned meditation and communication skills, and practiced meditation at home an average of half an hour per day.

“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to what’s happening in the present moment without judgment,” Dr. Lerman says. “There’s a good, solid body of research about its benefits, but the studies are not as rigorous. People in my field really want the scientific evidence rather than an anecdotal report.”

All patients rated their quality of life on the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-30), the Symptoms of Stress Inventory (SOSI) and the Symptoms Checklist (SCL-90-R).

The treatment group improved significantly on the EORTC (p=0.005), on six of the eight SOSI subscales (p=0.049) and on both SCL-90-R subscales (p=0.023). According to Dr. Lerman, the effect sizes were moderate.

There were no significant improvements in the control group (p>0.2).

“Yoga and meditation, even many years out after diagnosis, seem to be helpful in reducing anxiety,” Dr. Sheldon Feldman, chief of breast surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told Reuters Health.

“It was a small private study, but since it was randomized, the impact is significant,” said Dr. Feldman, also of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, who was not involved in the new research.

Read More

Meditation helps ease hot flashes, study shows

What should menopausal women do to alleviate the agony of hot flashes, as many studies have shown that hormone therapy increases risk for breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes?

Mindfulness meditation, the mind-body therapy that refers to a state of awareness, consciousness, and immediacy, not only de-clutters the mind and helps attain inner peace but also reduces the severity of menopausal hot flashes, claims a new study.

The researchers found that mindfulness training that included meditation and stretching exercises not only enhanced sleep quality but also helped ease stress and anxiety in women during menopause.

Dr. Ellen Freeman, a menopause expert at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, stated, “There’s a broad range of attitudes about hot flashes and how they should be treated. There are certainly many, many women who don’t want to take hormones … and don’t want to take other drugs either.

According to her, mindfulness on the other hand, “may be something that they find very acceptable.”

Trials to assess effect of meditation
In order to determine whether mindfulness training helps ease hot flashes in healthy women, the researchers conducted a eight-week trial.

They enrolled a group of 110 women, mostly white with at least five bothersome hot flashes a day.

The women were split into two groups. One group met for a 2.5-hour weekly meditating session that involved stretching, sitting quietly and simply processing whatever goes through the mind without reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images.

In addition, the participants were given audio recordings to practice meditation at home. In contrast the women in the control had no classes on mindfulness meditation.

For the study purpose, the participants were asked to record the frequency and severity of their hot flashes.

The average frequency of hot flashes reported at the onset of the study was about eight per day and three night sweats each night. The volunteers were “moderately” or “extremely” troubled by their symptoms.

They also reportedly had erratic sleep and their anxiety and stress scores were deemed higher than the normal range in healthy people.

Outcome of the study
An evaluation after eight weeks revealed that meditation helped ease stress and anxiety. Women slept better and exhibited increased levels of well being.

They were less troubled by their hot flashes and improvement persisted for over three months after they had completed the classes. The women rated their hot flashes botheration between slight to moderate.

However, there was no difference in the frequency of hot flashes in the two groups, suggesting that mindfulness meditation is technique that helps reduce the severity of hot flashes rather than eliminating them completely.

According to experts, mindfulness training provides women, especially those who want to avoid popping pills a good option for treating moderate to severe hot flashes that disrupt their quality of life.

A shorter trial in progress
The researchers are currently testing the impact of a four-week meditation training on bringing relief to menopausal women.

Lead researcher, Dr. James Carmody at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, stated, “We want to see if a shorter program would have the same effects.

“Anything that makes it more accessible for women.”

The findings of the study are published in the journal ‘Menopause.’

Read More