Monday, February 14, 2011

Yoga and Breast Cancer: A Positive Complement

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.  It is considered a heterogeneous disease-differing by individual, age group, and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves.  Obviously no woman wants to receive this diagnosis, but hearing the words "breast cancer" doesn't always mean an end.  It can be the beginning of learning how to fight, getting the facts, and finding hope.

Woman in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause for cancer death in women.  Each year it is estimated that nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.  Approximately 1,700 men will also be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die each year.  The evaluation for men and women are similar and include mammography.

In recent years, there's been an explosion of life-saving treatment advances against breast cancer, bringing new hope and excitement.  Instead of only one or two options, today there's an overwhelming menu of treatment choices that fight the complex mix of cells in each individual cancer.  The decisions- surgery, then perhaps radiation, hormonal (anti-estrogen) therapy, and/or chemotherapy- can feel overwhelming.
Yoga is increasingly being studied as a complementary treatment for breast cancer.  This means that in addition to the above mentioned treatment options, yoga is used to help alleviate the side effects of these harsh treatments.  Yoga has been shown to increase energy, vitality, and the quality of life. Gentle and restorative yoga practices help to promote immune function, help to boost circulation, and help to reduce discomfort following surgery.  The mind-body connection is a powerful tool.  

Several studies have shown the benefits of yoga after a breast cancer diagnosis:

- An M.D. Anderson Cancer Center study that found that women being treated for breast cancer felt better after yoga, with less fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

- A Duke University study of yoga for women with breast cancer that spread beyond the breast found that a customized yoga program led to less pain and fatigue and more relaxation.
- A study of the Iyengar method of yoga conducted at Washington State University, Spokane, found that the style promotes psychological well-being and perhaps boosts the immune system of women in treatment for breast cancer.

All these things being said, I am proud to be participating in an amazing event again this year.  "Yoga on the Steps" sponsored by "Living Beyond Breast Cancer.  1000+ yogi will practice yoga on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum on May 15th.  In an effort to raise funds for this inspiring event and promote breast cancer awareness, I have created a bracelet which is on sale in my shop.

Please take a moment to look at this bracelet and if you are inclined, please purchase it.  15% of proceeds will go towards "Living Beyond Breast Cancer."