I saw this article online on the BBC today

Complementary cancer therapies ‘do more harm than good’

In the main, it’s referring to herbal remedies, and it’s arguable whether these really qualify as a “complementary” therapy at all. But it is always important to ask whether complementary therapies are helping or harming?

At the end of this article, a Surgeon is quoted “therapies like yoga, mindfulness, reiki and acupuncture could have a positive impact on patients’ quality of life”.

I’ve checked some of the research to back this up:

  • Review of yoga therapy during cancer treatment – Danhauer et al 2017 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28064385
    “Among adults undergoing cancer treatment, evidence supports recommending yoga for improving psychological outcomes, with potential for also improving physical symptoms. Evidence is insufficient to evaluate the efficacy of yoga in pediatric oncology.”

  • Yoga into Cancer Care: A Review of the Evidence-based Research – Agarwal & Maroko-Afek 2018 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29343927
    “Despite a wide range of methodological gaps and limitations, yoga interventions were shown to be beneficial and yielded positive results without any adverse outcomes”
  • Yoga for improving health-related quality of life, mental health and cancer-related symptoms in women diagnosed with breast cancer – Cramer et al – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28045199
    “Moderate-quality evidence supports the recommendation of yoga as a supportive intervention for improving health-related quality of life and reducing fatigue and sleep disturbances when compared with no therapy, as well as for reducing depression, anxiety and fatigue, when compared with psychosocial/educational interventions.”
  • Salute to the sun: a new dawn in yoga therapy for breast cancer – Galliford et al 2017 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28134483
    “The evidence supports the use of yoga therapy to improve the physical and psychosocial Quality of Life for breast cancer patients with a range of benefits relevant to radiation therapy.”

Don’t worry, you don’t need to read them all!  But they show the benefits that Yoga can add to recovering from a Cancer.

Another interesting piece of research is “Therapeutic potential of the vagus nerve in cancer” – Reijmen at al 2018 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30077536 in which the authors conclude:

“Accumulating evidence points to a beneficial effect of vagus nerve activity in tumor development. The vagus nerve is proposed to slow tumorigenesis because of its anti-inflammatory properties …  …These results provide a rationale to expect that vagus nerve stimulation, in combination with conventional cancer treatments, may improve the prognosis of cancer patients by promoting anticancer immunity”

Given that the Vagus nerve is one of the main targets of Yoga Therapy, a therapeutic yoga practice could help slow the growth of cancers (tumorigenesis) and improve prognosis. 

One thing to be crystal clear on though – these are Complementary treatments, and don’t take the place of the treatment Surgeons, Doctors and Nurses – incidentally, not everyone knows, but claims around treating cancer are specifically restricted under the Cancer Act 1939 and anyone who makes unwarranted claims about treating cancer could be prosecuted.  Complementary Therapies, such as a Yoga Therapy, are are designed to be used in conjunction with conventional treatments and are used to seek to relieve the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of conventional treatments.