October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among South African women – and its incidence is rising.
Over the past few years cancer researchers have conducted several studies to determine if yoga can benefit those who are battling cancer, both in terms of alleviating symptoms as well as alleviating side effects from medications. The results have shown that yoga helps with lymphatic flow, breaks down scar tissue, and can help cancer survivors sleep better, feel more energetic.
Important things to consider before trying yoga
Like all practices, yoga comes with some risks:
- Risk of inexperienced instructors: Not all yoga teachers are experienced when it comes to students dealing with cancer so ask your oncologist or cancer center staff to recommend highly experienced yoga instructors who regularly work with cancer patients.
- Risk of lymphedema: In people who have had lymph nodes removed, some of the more strenuous yoga types and poses may present a risk for lymphedema. A yoga teacher who has experience with breast cancer patients will know which yoga types and poses are safe.
- Risk of fracture in people with bone metastasis: In people with breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone, some types of yoga may carry a risk of fractures. If you have bone metastasis, ask your doctor whether yoga is right for you, or if there is a gentle form of yoga or another practice that might work better, such as meditation or guided imagery. Always check with your doctor before you begin a yoga practice.
As with many other cancers, early detection is absolutely crucial in ensuring effective treatment and a positive outcome – and about 90% of women who are diagnosed early with breast cancer and treated appropriately survive for many years.