What happens after conventional treatment? Investigating the feasibility of a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modality for breast cancer survivors

It is estimated that there are well over 10.5 million cancer survivors in North America and over 40 percent of the females are breast cancer survivors. Nearly three quarters of the cancer survivors experience some kind of debilitating effect(s) from cancer diagnosis and conventional treatments, including considerable fatigue, psychological distress, impaired quality of life, cognitive dysfunction, cardiac toxicity, loss of appetite, poor mental health and reduced physical and sexual functioning. These effects are particularly prevalent in breast cancer survivors who received multiple treatments over an extended period of time. Increasingly, health care providers and patients are looking to innovative solutions to address adverse effects that are often poorly managed by conventional medicine. Approximately 80 per cent of breast cancer survivors use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to help them manage the difficult physiological, emotional and psychological symptoms that often persist. A growing body of randomized controlled research implies that yoga therapy has physiological and psychosocial benefits for the chronically ill – however, controlled trials are lacking for its use within cancer. Dr. Suzanne Slocum_Gori has previously conducted NIH studies within the US investigating yoga therapy for HIV/AIDS. Now, she’s focusing on the feasibility of using yoga therapy as part of the BC Cancer Agency’s (BCCA) health services for breast cancer survivors. Slocum-Gori’s study will consist of two phases. She will examine both the acceptability and sustainability of such a program within BCCA’s mainstream health system for Phase I, including the identification of factors that promote and impede acceptability, sustainability, recruitment and attrition. Phase II of the study will consist of a controlled pilot study to measure the effectiveness of yoga therapy for breast cancer survivors over time.