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While known to help improve lifespan, it’s no secret that cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can also come with distressing side effects. One of the more common effects our patients experience is the impact on cognitive function, such as memory and concentration, referred to as “chemo brain”. In fact, one survey found that 75% of patients with cancer who underwent conventional treatments (such as chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy) experienced these symptoms in some form.
Fortunately, research now shows that exercise, such as yoga, may help improve chemo brain. A recent study found positive effects after a 6-month exercise intervention that included aerobic exercise, strength training, and power walking. Another study on sedentary cancer survivors found that participants who engaged in a 12-week exercise program showed reduced chemo brain symptoms as well as improved mental processing speed.
The largest impact was seen in a study that evaluated the impact of yoga in patients with breast cancer. This study observed improvements in cognitive performance post-chemotherapy, including areas such as memory, attention, and executive function. In assessing memory difficulty specifically, the yoga intervention group demonstrated an improvement of almost 20% compared to the standard care group who improved by only about 5% over the same period of time.
Interested in trying yoga, but not sure where to begin? Our clinic offers online, instructional yoga sessions, free for anyone diagnosed with cancer. Learn more and register here.
Author: Raman Dhaliwal, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre Intern