Up to 50 percent of breast cancer survivors are depressed, according to researchers. But now scientists at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing say a meditation technique can help breast cancer survivors improve their emotional and physical well-being.
The researchers, 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), which incorporates meditation, yoga, and physical awareness.
“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 university’s MBSR program consists of group sessions over eight to 10 weeks. During the sessions, participants practice meditation skills, discuss how their 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, their moods improved, and their level of mindfulness increased after taking the class, Armer said, noting that for best results, breast cancer survivors 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,” she said.
She adds the approach works best as a complement to other treatment options, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
The study, “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Health Among Breast Cancer Survivors,” was published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.