Results show benefits emerged over time
Patients in the qigong group reported a steady decline in depressive symptom scores beginning at the end of radiation therapy with a mean score of 12.3, through the three month post-radiation follow-up with a score of 9.5. No changes were noted in the control group over time.
The study also found qigong was especially helpful for women reporting high baseline depressive symptoms, Cohen said.
"We examined women's depressive symptoms at the start of the study to see if women with higher levels would benefit more," Cohen said. "In fact, women with low levels of depressive symptoms at the start of radiotherapy had good quality of life throughout treatment and three months later regardless of whether they were in the qigong or control group. However, women with high depressive symptoms in the control group reported the worst levels of depressive symptoms, fatigue, and overall quality of life that were significantly improved for the women in the qigong group."
As the benefits of qigong were largely observed after treatment concluded, researchers suggest qigong may prevent a delayed symptom burden, or expedite the recovery process especially for women with elevated depressive symptoms at the start of radiotherapy.
Cohen notes the delayed effect could be explained by the cumulative nature of these modalities, as the benefits often take time to be realized.
Future research needed
The authors note several limitations to the study, including the absence of an active control group making it difficult to rule out whether or not the effects of qigong were influenced by a patient's expectations or simply being a light exercise. Additionally, the homogeneity of the group, Chinese women at a single site, limits th
|Contact: William Fitzgerald|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center