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Study investigates benefits of Tai Chi for breast cancer survivors

By Amanda Butterfield | Posted - Jul. 14, 2010 at 10:07 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Three times a week a group of elderly cancer survivors meet and meditate under the close watch of Huntsman Cancer Institute researchers.

For the first time, researchers are figuring out if Tai Chi can help breast cancer survivors live a better, happier, healthier life.

HEALS project
  • Seeks female participants who have experienced breast cancer
  • Age 60 years or older
  • For more information, contact Kathleen O'Connor, research coordinator, at 801-587-4556.

The women learn slow breathing and movements during their Tai Chi class.

And after a double mastectomy and six surgeries, breast cancer survivor Kay Powell says this class is what she desperately needs to help her slow down.

"You get really busy in your day and you think of everyone else. This is something you can do for yourself," she said.

As Anita Kinney, Ph.D., with the Huntsman Cancer Institute explains, "Tai Chi is a mind-body intervention that includes meditation as well as physical activity."

Preliminary evidence suggests is offers numerous benefits:
  • Stress reduction
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improving balance, flexibility and muscle strength
  • Reducing falls in older adults
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness in older adult
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Increasing energy, endurance and agility
  • Improving overall feelings of well-being
Source: Mayo Clinic

Kinney particularly wants to see if it improves the quality of life for elderly breast cancer survivors. There is data showing Tai Chi is beneficial for the elderly and young cancer survivors; but Kinney says of the 12 million cancer survivors in the United States, 23 percent had breast cancer -- and it's that group she wants to help.

"This can help in getting insurance reimbursement for cancer survivors for such activities," Kinney said.

But most importantly, it may help women like Elsie Halliday feel better.

"The mornings I wake up after class I have hours more worth of energy than I did the day before," she said.

Another perk of the classes that Halliday didn't expect: She's meeting other survivors who inspire her.

"We come in different shapes and sizes and we have all been through the battlefield," she said.

Though results from the study won't be published for at least another year and a half, Kinney said, "We've seen improvements so far."

Researchers want more volunteers to participate. CLICK HERE for more information about volunteering.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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Amanda Butterfield

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