By Helen Young
Elsewhere in breast cancer news, meditation has been found to reduce symptoms of anxiety, tiredness, and pain for women having a breast cancer biopsy. Image-guided needle biopsies are highly efficient at diagnosing breast cancer, yet they can be painful and can cause a range of emotions that result in anxiety – everything from anger, right through to worry and fear. Managing these emotions1 can be difficult during the procedure, which can reduce the effectiveness of a biopsy. Moreover, women who have a negative psychological experience during a biopsy can refrain from returning for vital follow-up screenings.
Researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute2 have found that meditation can significantly lower anxiety and other negative emotions, which is good news considering that this millenary practice, favored in the East for so many generations, is inexpensive and easy to teach.
In their studies, doctors randomly assigned 121 women to receive one of three approaches during their biopsies: recorded meditation, music, or standard care with a technologist providing conversation and support. The meditation session followed a script that was centered on building a positive emotional state in which compassion towards oneself and others was encouraged. Those in the music group listened to a range of styles, including nature sounds and jazz. Finally, the standard group was comforted either by the radiologist or technologist.
The results showed that women in the meditation and music groups had significantly less anxiety and fatigue after their biopsies, than those who only received standard care. The meditation group also reported lesser pain than those in the music group. The scientists concluded that meditation was a useful alternative to traditional anti-anxiety sedation, which costs more and which requires specialist care. They stated that their findings would need to be tested on a larger scale, to determine whether meditation can be useful in other medical procedures as well.
Meditation and other mindful activities have long been used in cancer settings; for instance, yoga was recently found to be very effective at reducing stress levels and at boosting vitality in women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer.3 In addition to helping women cope psychologically with cancer, 4 yoga has been found to reduce fatigue and symptoms of depression, and to improve the quality of sleep. Studies have also shown that yoga can ease chronic pain, in particular, lower back pain and migraines.
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