The flowing movements and meditative exercises of the mind-body activity known as Qigong (CHEE gung) may help survivors of prostate cancer to combat fatigue, according to a newly published trial study. Qigong is performed at a slow pace, is not overly physically exertive, and can even be performed sitting. It combines slow, flowing movements with coordinated deep breathing and meditative exercises.

Severe fatigue is one of the most common cancer-related symptoms reported by cancer survivors, particularly for prostate cancer survivors receiving androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). This subjective sense of physical, emotional, or cognitive exhaustion may persist for months or years following treatment. It greatly diminishes survivors’ quality of life by limiting their ability to perform daily activities and causes significant distress.

Because cancer patients are often advised to participate in physical activity as a nonpharmacologic way to manage cancer-related fatigue and levels of distress, this trial study was launched to determine if the mind-body activity Qigong holds any promise for older cancer survivors in this regard. The study took place at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, and it was led by Anita Y. Kinney, MSN, PhD, of the University of New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque and by Rebecca Campo, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship (2013; doi:10.1007/s11764-013-0315-5).

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Forty participants who suffered from high levels of fatigue were recruited for a 12-week randomized controlled trial. The group was on average 72 years old. Half of the group took part in Qigong classes, while the other participants attended stretching classes.

Qigong classes seemed to have been more popular with the participants, as its class attendance was higher than that of the stretching group. More importantly though, according to Kinney, “Qigong participants reported significant declines in how much fatigue or distress they experienced, compared to those who participated in the stretching class.”

“Qigong may be an effective nonpharmacologic intervention for the management of senior prostate cancer survivors’ fatigue and distress,” said Campo, who added that further larger trials would be needed to confirm these benefits in older prostate cancer survivors and in racially and ethnically diverse populations.