A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, titled “Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Use of Integrative Therapies as Supportive Care in Patients Treated for Breast Cancer,” has shown that meditation, yoga and relaxation with imagery can have beneficial effects in patients suffering with breast cancer.
A high percentage of breast cancer patients use complementary therapies throughout their cancer treatment to help manage symptoms, prevent treatment-associated toxicities and improve general quality of life. However, practice guidelines that can accurately inform clinicians and patients on which therapies are safe and effective were lacking.
With this unmeet medical need in mind, a team of researchers from several institutions, including Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, MD Anderson, University of Michigan and Memorial Sloan Kettering, reviewed randomized controlled trials conducted between 1990 and 2013 that tested the use of integrative therapies for supportive care in patients receiving breast cancer treatment. Each therapy was graded based upon a modified version of the US Preventive Services Task Force grading system.
The authors state in their study that women suffering with breast cancer are among the highest users of these types of therapies, whose practice has been increasing over time.
The authors rated meditation, yoga, and relaxation with imagery a grade “A,” and recommended these practices for routine use to aid in anxiety and mood disorders. Acupuncture and music therapy received a “B” for controlling chemotherapy nausea and anxiety and stress, respectively.
Additionally, the study revealed that some interventions, such as healing touch or aloe vera gel for preventing skin reactions from radiation therapy, had a weaker evidence of benefit (grade C), while some were described as unlikely to provide any benefit (grade D).
Furthermore, the only intervention classified as potentially harmful was acetyl-L-carnitine for the prevention of taxane-induced neuropathy, since it was found to increase neuropathy.
As the study authors conclude “specific integrative therapies can be recommended as evidence-based supportive care options during breast cancer treatment”. However, the authors advise “most integrative therapies require further investigation via well-designed controlled trials with meaningful outcomes”.