Yoga and Breast Cancer Survivor Quality of Life

February 13, 2014

Yoga and Breast Cancer Survivor Quality of Life

  1. William J. Gradishar, MD

Yoga exercise reduced fatigue and inflammation associated with decreased physical function.

  1. William J. Gradishar, MD

Breast cancer survivors frequently cite myriad symptoms, including fatigue, deconditioning, and depression. In addition, their cardiorespiratory fitness is about 30% lower than that of their sedentary, age-matched, cancer-free counterparts. Survivors benefit from regular exercise but often limit their physical activity because of pain and fatigue. Would less vigorous yoga exercise provide health benefits for such individuals?

To find out, investigators conducted a 3-month, randomized, controlled trial in which 200 breast cancer survivors were assigned to a yoga program (twice-weekly, 90-minute, hatha yoga workouts for 12 weeks) or to usual activities (controls). The primary outcomes were measures of inflammation associated with decreased physical function — interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α), and interleukin (IL)-1β — as well as scores on validated assessments of vitality, fatigue, and depression. Women reporting more than 5 hours of vigorous exercise per week or prior or current yoga practice were excluded.

Immediately after treatment, vitality was higher in the yoga group than in controls (P=0.01), but fatigue was not diminished. At 3 months after treatment, fatigue was lower in the yoga group (P=0.002), vitality was higher (P=0.01), and inflammatory measures were lower: IL-6 (P=0.027), TNF-α (P=0.027), and IL-β (P=0=.037). Measures of depression did not differ between groups.


Modest exercise of any sort has been shown in prior studies to improve functional status, physiologic fitness, and many common symptoms that cancer survivors experience. Yoga appears to have similar effects on sedentary breast cancer survivors. Encouraging patients and survivors to exercise, even with modest exertion, can provide significant benefits and should be part of a survivorship plan.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for William J. Gradishar, MD at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board Biologics, Inc.; Celgene; Myriad; Novartis Grant / research support Breast Cancer Research Fund Editorial boards Clinical Breast Cancer; Journal of Clinical Oncology; Oncology


Reader Comments (1)

Beverley Other Healthcare Professional, Surgery, General, General Hospital

I am new to this website. I like the topic, and I am very keen to understand the benefits of Yoga fro Breast Cancer survivors.
It was presented well

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