Radiotherapy may lead to side effects that undermine patients' quality of life (QOL). Although mind-body practices like qigong appear to improve QOL in cancer survivors, little is known about their benefits for patients who are receiving radiotherapy. Thus, in the current randomized controlled trial, the authors examined the efficacy of a qigong intervention on QOL in women with breast cancer during and after treatment.
Ninety-six women with breast cancer were recruited from a cancer center in Shanghai, China, and were randomized to a qigong group (N = 49) or a waitlist control group (N = 47). Women in the qigong group attended 5 weekly classes over 5 or 6 weeks of radiotherapy. QOL outcomes (ie, depressive symptoms, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and overall QOL) and cortisol slopes were assessed at baseline, during treatment, at the end of treatment, 1 month later, and 3 months later.
The mean age of the women was 46 years (range, 25-64 years). Seven percent of women had stage 0 disease, 25% had stage I disease, 40% had stage II disease, and 28% had stage III disease. Fifty-four percent of women underwent mastectomy. Multilevel analyses revealed that women in the qigong group reported less depressive symptoms over time than women in the control group (P = .05). Women who had elevated depressive symptoms at the start of radiotherapy reported less fatigue (P < .01) and better overall QOL (P < .05) in the qigong group compared with the control group, and these findings were clinically significant. No significant differences were observed for sleep disturbance or cortisol slopes.
The current results indicated that qigong may have therapeutic effects in the management of QOL among women who are receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer. Benefits were particularly evident for patients who had preintervention elevated levels of depressive symptoms. Cancer 2013. © 2013 American Cancer Society.