Practicing yoga during active cancer treatment seems to improve the well-being of both children with cancer and their parents, according to a study recently published in the journal Rehabilitation Oncology.1
Although pediatric cancers are rare in the United States, the National Cancer Institute estimates 15,780 children and adolescents up to age 19 years were diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and 1,960 died.2 The American Cancer Society reports that approximately 10,380 of these cases are among children who are younger than 15 years old. Given the severity of the treatment involved in fighting pediatric cancers, researchers have been trying to find ways to improve quality-of-life for both the children and their families during this period. To this end, researchers from the United States and Denmark performed two studies designed to evaluate the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of yoga for children with cancer who are undergoing active treatment and for their families.
The first study, a small one of 20 children and their families, was a pilot evaluation to assess if a larger yoga intervention may be valuable. The children were aged 8 to 18 years and had to be physically able to perform yoga exercises. Half the children had never done yoga before this study. The participants completed surveys before the study began and then throughout the study, as researchers evaluated the participants’ responses to the program.
The authors found that there were perceived barriers that concerned some of the participants before they began the program: “[P]erceived barriers to practicing yoga were substantial, especially concerns about side effects, pain/discomfort, and physical limitations. Understanding the perceived barriers was very helpful in developing a yoga intervention that would be acceptable to cancer patients and their parents. For example, the yoga instructor modified the yoga intervention to accommodate side effects of cancer therapy such as fatigue or discomfort.” But, the results showed that at the end, the participants were satisfied enough with the program that they would recommend it to others.
The second study was a pilot efficacy study. For this study, 29 children and adolescents, also aged 8 to 18 years, had to be available to attend at least four yoga sessions over the 8-week enrollment period. The children and their parents or caregivers completed surveys, evaluating quality of life, and the children were monitored electronically. Six could not complete the study because of treatment toxicity, and six had scheduling conflicts that did not allow them to attend all sessions. Ten children and families completed the study.
The results showed that both parents and children were satisfied with yoga as an adjunct therapy to their cancer treatments, seeing an improved quality of life. "Our findings support the notion that yoga for pediatric cancer patients during active treatment is feasible and potentially helpful in improving both patient and parent well-being," lead author Andrea Orsey, MD, said in a release.3 Orsey is from the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hartford, Conn. However, the researchers did point out that implementing such programs could prove difficult in some cases, as scheduling treatments often conflicted.
- Orsey AD, Park CL, Pulaski R, et al. Results of a Pilot Yoga Intervention to Improve Pediatric Cancer Patients' Quality of Life and Physical Activity and Parents' Well-being. Rehabilitation Oncology. 2017 Jan;35(1): 15-23.
- National Cancer Institute. Cancer in Children and Adolescents. 2014 May 12.
- Wolters Kluwer. Yoga May Help Kids with Cancer – Special Issue of Rehabilitation Oncology Highlights Physical Therapy for Pediatric Cancer. 2017 Jan 4.