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Mindfulness Meditation: How it Helps Cancer Patients

Mindfulness Meditation: How It Helps Cancer Patients

In recent years, many Americans dealing with cancer diagnoses have been experimenting with complementary treatments alongside traditional treatments for cancer. In fact, studies estimate that at least half of cancer patients use some type of complimentary intervention[1]. The good news is that some of these interventions are extremely helpful. One complimentary modality that has been shown to be particularly beneficial for cancer patients is mindfulness meditation.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on breathing and then bringing the mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps break the train of everyday thoughts and evokes a relaxation response. The mindfulness elements of accepting things as they are, turning towards rather than away from difficult emotional experience, and embracing change as a constant are helpful for cancer patients who are may be facing difficult realities. The emotion-regulation strategies practiced in mindfulness interventions help to prevent worry about the future and rumination over past events, and allow patients to live more fully in the present moment, regardless of what lies ahead[2].

How Mindfulness Meditation Helps

Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can help reduce:
[checklist style=”3″]

  • Anxiety [2][3]
  • Tiredness [4][6]
  • Stress [3][6]
  • Sleep problems [5][6]
  • Blood pressure [7]


In addition to being beneficial, meditation, unlike some other complimentary therapies is safe with few negative side effects or risk.

More recent research our of Canada has showed that not only does mindfulness meditation help with some of the side effects, fears and discomforts surrounding cancer treatments but that it can actually boost the body’s natural cancer-fighting abilities, heightening the activity of NK cells, T-cells and other immune mechanisms[8].

Many cancer centers have begun to recognize the benefits of complementary modalities such as mindfulness meditation and have begun offering sessions within their facilities. If you are interested in learning more, inquire at your medical facility.

Have you tried mindfulness meditation? Share your thoughts about how it has helped you.


[1]Seely DM, Weeks LC, Young S. A systematic review of integrative oncology Programs. CurrOncol. 2012;19:e436-e461.
[2]Carlson, L.E, Mindfulnes-based Cancer Recovery: The development of an Evidence- Based Psychosocial Oncology Intervention. Oncology Exchange. May 2013; 12 (2): 21-25.
[3]Shennan C , Payne S , Fenlon D . What is the evidence for the use of mindfulness-based interventions in cancer care? A review. Psychooncology. 2011 ; 20 ( 7 ): 681 – 697
[4]Ledesma D , Kumano H . Mindfulness-based stress reduction and cancer: a meta-analysis. Psychooncology .2009 ; 18 ( 6 ): 571 – 579
[5]Black D.S, O;Reilly G.A, Olmstead R, Breen E.C, Irwin MR. Mindfulness Mediation and Improvements in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults with Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015:175(4): 494-501.
[6]Carlson, L.E. and Garland, SN. Impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Sleep, Mood, Stress and Fatigue Symptoms in Cancer Outpatients. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2005: 12(4); 278-285.
[7]Hughes, JW, Fresco, DM, Myerscough, R, van Dumne, Van Dulman, HM, Carlson, LE, Josephson, R. Randomized Controlled Trail of Mindfulness-Based Stress Redcution for Prehypertension. Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2013 75(8): 721-728.
[8]Carlson LE, Beattie, T.L, Giese-Davis, J, Faris, P, Tamagawa, R, Fick, L, Degelman, ES, Speca, M. Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery and Supportive-Expressive Therapy Maintain Teleomere Length Relative to Controls in Distressed Breast Cancer Survivors. 2015:121(3);476-484.

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