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Harvard Medical School Leads Systematic Review of Tai Chi and Qigong for Cancer Patients

December 21, 2017 - Harvard Medical School joined force with Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, University of Calgary (Canada) and Chungnam National University (South Korea) to summarize and critically evaluate the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong (TCQ) mind-body exercises on symptoms and quality of life (QOL) in cancer survivors.

A systematic search in four electronic databases targeted randomized and non-randomized clinical studies evaluating TCQ for fatigue, sleep difficulty, depression, pain, and QOL in cancer patients, published through August 2016. Meta-analysis was used to estimate effect sizes and publication bias for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Methodological bias in RCTs was assessed.

The search identified 22 studies, including 15 RCTs that evaluated 1283 participants in total, 75% women. RCTs evaluated breast, prostate, lymphoma, lung, or combined cancers. RCT comparison groups included active intervention, usual care, or both. Duration of TCQ training ranged from 3 to 12 weeks. Methodological bias was low in 12 studies and high in 3 studies.

TCQ was associated with significant improvement in fatigue, sleep difficulty, depression, and overall QOL; a statistically non-significant trend was observed for pain. Random effects models were used for meta-analysis.

Overall, the research finds that TCQ shows promise in addressing cancer-related symptoms and QOL in cancer survivors. However, larger and methodologically sound trials with longer follow-up periods and appropriate comparison groups are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn, and cancer- and symptom-specific recommendations can be made. The research findings are published by Journal of cancer survivorship in December of 2017.

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