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Lifestyle therapies help improve breast cancer survival rates, study finds

Experts say these kinds of treatments can also improve patients’ quality of life

Breast cancer pink ribbon
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A new study recently published in the Journal of Oncology explored how different treatments can benefit breast cancer patients. The findings show that utilizing integrative lifestyle therapies – which include things like exercise, nutrition counseling, yoga, and spiritual services – may improve breast cancer survival rates. 

“Access to basic integrative health care services in cancer care not only supports a higher quality of life, but this study also shows that these services increase a patient’s chance of survival,” said researcher Dr. Wayne Jonas. “These findings serve as a call to action for hospitals and oncologists to support a whole-person approach to cancer care.” 

Comprehensive treatments lead to better results

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 5,000 people who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer between 2013 and 2014. The team evaluated survey responses from over 100 oncologists about what kinds of treatments they provided their breast cancer patients, including alternative therapies. 

The study focused on a dozen different holistic offerings, including massage therapy, Reiki, spiritual services, nutrition, acupuncture, patient support groups, music therapy, art therapy, psycho-oncology support, exercise, meditation, tai chi, and yoga. The researchers learned that these integrative therapies were associated with better survival outcomes for breast cancer patients. 

Ultimately, patients had better survival rates when hospitals offered more integrative therapies. The study showed that offering patients even a moderate number of these treatments can make survival up to three times more likely over five years. 

Based on these findings, the researchers hope more health care facilities adopt these integrative treatments for breast cancer patients. Having these therapies available onsite can be a helpful way to create more thorough treatment plans.

“Patients can play an active role in their cancer treatment and outcomes – but they are much more likely to do it with approval and help from their health system,” said researcher Terri Crudup. “Oncologists and institutions that treat these patients need to consider providing education, support, and funding for these complementary and lifestyle therapies.” 

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