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Can Qigong Therapy Alleviate Lung Cancer Symptoms?

Can Qigong Therapy Alleviate Lung Cancer Symptoms?
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Published on February 5, 2021

Qigong May Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Lung Cancer Patients

Patients with lung cancer can benefit from complementary therapies when they are used alongside traditional cancer therapies to treat physical pain or the emotional distress of a cancer diagnosis.

Shirley Siu-yin Ching, Ph.D., RN, of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, led a study looking at a type of complementary therapy called Qigong, a form of exercise incorporating focused breathing and gentle movement, coupled with a meditation practice. Originating in China more than 4,000 years ago, Qigong is also used for healing and martial arts training. The practice involves channeling and moving the qi (or chi), the body’s vital energy, through specific movements akin to a slow, deliberate dance.

Dr. Ching presented these results last week at the online-only World Conference on Lung Cancer, hosted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

Qigong Improves Physical and Mental Health

In a review of 22 trials, Dr. Ching concluded that Qigong improved physical and mental well-being as well as quality-of-life in patients with lung cancer. She then developed a new study to see if three top lung cancer symptoms could be improved at the same time.

Dr. Ching and her colleagues looked at a symptom cluster: dyspnea (labored breathing), fatigue and anxiety, three of the most worrisome symptoms for patients with lung cancer. “These symptoms co-exist, and they are interrelated,” Dr. Ching said.

A second aim of the study was to see if Qigong had an effect on the cough that often accompanies a lung cancer diagnosis.

Study of Patients with Invasive Lung Cancer

The study recruited 156 patients with invasive lung cancer who had completed four weeks of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The mean age was 75. The patients were divided into two groups:

  • The Qigong intervention group participated in 90-minute supervised sessions of Qigong twice per week for the first two weeks and were then instructed to practice at home for 30-minute intervals five times per week with DVD-led instruction. They were prescribed an additional six-week unsupervised follow-up practice.
  • The control group was given the usual care with briefings on lung cancer and 10-minute meetings with a registered nurse.

The study showed that the patients in the Qigong group reported symptom burden improvement at six weeks and 12 weeks, whereas the control group did not experience a significant symptom burden improvement.

For fatigue and anxiety, the Qigong group showed a trend in improvement. For dyspnea, there was a significant improvement over the control group. The Qigong group also had a significant improvement with coughing as well as self-reported quality of life. Although the study did not support the hypothesis of alleviating all symptoms in the cluster at the same rate, it did improve dyspnea and cough significantly.

“In future studies, the cluster of symptoms that include dyspnea and cough should be considered as the key outcome for Qigong intervention with breathing exercises,” Dr. Ching said. She also recommends that the benefits of the skills learned through the mindfulness-led breathing exercises should be investigated more.

Patients with lung and other cancers can ask their doctors for recommendations for complementary therapies such as Qigong and join the millions of practitioners worldwide who engage in this form of exercise and meditative breathing for a variety of health benefits.

~Lauren Evoy Davis

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Siu-yin Ching SS. Qigong on Symptom Management of Lung Cancer Patients. WCLC 2020 Conference

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