(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – The Yoga for Cancer Survivors (YOCAS) program — which consists of breathing exercises, 18 Hatha and Restorative yoga postures, and meditation — significantly reduced general pain, muscle aches, and physical discomfort in patients with breast cancer using aromatase inhibitors (AIs), according to a presentation at the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting.

Up to 50% of patients with breast cancer on AI therapy report significant musculoskeletal symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, which decreases treatment adherence, reported Luke Joseph Peppone, PhD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.

“Aromatase inhibitors represent a next-generation targeted therapy for patients with breast cancer. However, for some, muscle aches make it hard to take this medicine,” said Mark G. Kris, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, about the study. “This trial, done through the NCI’s Cooperative Group Community Clinical Oncology Program, demonstrates that a yoga program, available to anyone, can lessen muscle aches and permit patients to continue their normal lives and fight their cancers in the best way.”

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The efficacy of yoga for improving musculoskeletal symptoms was investigated in a multisite, Phase 3 trial that randomized patients with any type of non-metastatic cancer into a control arm or 4-week yoga intervention (two 75-minute sessions per week) plus standard care. Only women with breast cancer receiving AIs (n=95) or tamoxifen (n=72) were included in this secondary analysis; none had previously practiced yoga.

At baseline, patients in the AI arm reported higher levels of general pain, muscle aches, and total physical discomfort than those in the tamoxifen arm. Only those taking AIs assigned to the yoga arm demonstrated significantly greater reductions in each of these areas (P<0.05 for all).