Being diagnosed with a rare and dangerous form of cancer may leave patients feeling like they have few options for improving their quality of life. However, many healthcare professionals are recommending complementary therapies – like yoga breathing techniques, meditation or tai chi – for pain relief and palliative care.
Consider malignant mesothelioma, a disease diagnosed in just 3,000 people each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This condition consists of cancer cells that grow in the pleura, the lining of the chest cavity surrounding the lungs, the organization states.
Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and exposure to asbestos greatly increases the risk of the disease, the ACS adds.
This condition has a relatively poor prognosis. The National Cancer Institute estimates that the median survival time for a patient with localized mesothelioma is 16 months, a figure that drops to 5 months if the cancer is found to have metastasized.
That said, many patients with the disease must receive effective palliative care to keep them comfortable. In this respect, yoga breathing exercises may help individuals with mesothelioma relax, reduce their pain or take deeper, more oxygenating breaths.
In the book Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient's Guide, author Paul Kraus states that a body – even one with a serious form of cancer – needs regular activity or exercise to maintain optimal health.
"Walk, swim and learn the gentle healing arts of tai chi or yoga. All of these are very healing," he explains, adding that being candid, having forthright interpersonal relationships and maintaining a positive attitude may also improve quality of life for people with the disease.
Kraus points to the benefits of a healthy diet and yoga-based stretching exercises on other diseases, like angina and cardiovascular disease. He concludes that while such methods can sound far-fetched, they may ultimately improve a person's mental and physical vigor in a time of profound trouble.