Fear, anxiety and confusion often accompany the diagnosis of cancer or any life threatening disease. Being able to take control of one's emotions and navigate through treatment options and life style changes is essential for a speedy recovery. For managing stress and finding the inner strength to deal with a serious illness, many women find that learning Transcendental Meditation is a key factor. Not only does effective meditation provide deep relaxation and calm, but also better intuition and clarity of mind to face the challenges of fighting for one's life. A recent study gives encouragement for women with breast cancer for improving their ability to manage stress and find solace from within.
A study published in the peer-reviewed Integrative Cancer Therapies (Vol. 8, No. 3: September 2009), "The Effects of Transcendental Meditation on Women with Breast Cancer" found reduced stress and improved mental health and emotional well being through their practice of the technique. The study was a collaboration between the Center for Healthy Aging at Saint Joseph Hospital; the Institute for Health Services, Research and Policy Studies at Northwestern University; the Department of Psychology at Indiana State University; and the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management.
"It is wonderful that physicians now have a range of interventions to use, including Transcendental Meditation, to benefit their patients with cancer," said Rhoda Pomerantz, M.D., study co-author and chief of gerontology, Saint Joseph Hospital. "I believe this approach should be appreciated and utilized more widely."
The one-hundred-and-thirty women with breast cancer, 55 years and older, who participated in the two-year study at Saint Joseph Hospital were randomly assigned either the Transcendental Meditation technique or to a usual care control group. Patients were administered quality of life measures, including the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast, every six months for two years. The average intervention period was 18 months.
Since emotional and psychosocial stress contribute to the onset and progression of breast cancer and cancer mortality, the Transcendental Meditation technique provides an effective technique to reduces stress and improves emotional well-being and mental health in breast cancer patients, the study found. Having a technique to experience inner silence and timelessness can alleviate the sense of helplessness women often feel in the face of a life threatening disease. Transcendental Meditation is an effortless technique and doesn't require any belief system or ability to concentrate or focus.
"The women in the study found their meditation practice easy to do at home and reported significant benefits in their overall quality of life. Decades of research have shown that stress contributes to the cause and complications of cancer," said Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., co-author and director of Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management. "The data from this well-designed clinical trial and related studies suggest that effective stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation program may be useful in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer and its deleterious consequences."
Facts on Breast CancerBreast cancer is the most common cancer in women—and remains a leading cause of death. Breast cancer incidence in the United States is 1 in 8 (about 13%). In 2008, an estimated 250,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in women in the U.S. Women above the age of 50 have nearly four times the incidence compared to women under 50. Newly diagnosed and long-term survivors are affected by impairment in quality of life, including emotional, physical, functional, social, and spiritual domains. Psychosocial stress contributes to the onset, progression, and mortality from this disease.
Clinical diagnosis of breast cancer increases psychological distress, with sustained distress occurring during cancer treatment and continuing long-term.
There have been an increasing number of women using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for female-specific cancers. In terms of breast cancer, recent studies indicate that CAM use among women may be as high as 90 percent. As more and more women search for natural remedies for treatment of breast cancer, the Transcendental Mediation technique offers a foundation of inner peace and healing to aid faster recovery from disease. Since it is taught in a professional setting with one-on-one guidance and follow up, women suffering from a serious illness can be sure they are learning an authentic meditation whose benefits have been validated by scientific research.
Families may also benefit from the practice as they feel the impact of stress and worry almost as much or more than the cancer patient. Dealing with a crisis requires a level head and patience that stress and tension can undermine. The introduction of Transcendental Meditation as an adjunct therapy in treating cancer is an encouraging sign, indicating the rise of integrative medicine—the medicine of the future.