The body-mind concept operates on the premise that our thought patterns and emotional health influence our physical well-being.
While the role of stress in cancer remains con¬troversial, there is substantial evidence confirming the negative health consequences of sustained stress on health and well-being through profound psychological, behavioral, and physiologic effects.
There is also evidence to suggest that chronic stress plays a role in disease progression and that it may contribute to overall mortality.
The mind-body connection is an important aspect of integrative oncology, as emphasized in the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient.” This comprehensive report states that “cancer care today often provides state-of-the-science biomedical treatment, but fails to address the psychological and social (psychosocial) problems associated with the illness. These problems—including anxiety, depression or other emotional problems—cause additional suffering, weaken adher¬ence to prescribed treatments, and threaten patients’ return to health.”
A meta-analysis of 116 studies found that mind-body therapies reduced anxiety, depression and mood disturbance in cancer patients and assisted them in their coping skills. Mind-body techniques also may help reduce chronic low back pain, joint pain, headache, and procedural pain. In a 2002 systematic review of psychological therapies for patients with cancer, Newell and colleagues examined the beneﬁts of different psychological strategies, recommended interventions involving self-practice and hypnosis for managing conditioned nausea and vomiting, and suggested research to examine the beneﬁts of relaxation training and guided imagery.
Body-mind therapies include meditation, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, cognitive-behavioural therapy, biofeedback, guided imagery, tai chi, yoga, and art therapy.
Energy therapies are based on a theory that manipulation of a patient’s “bioenergy” has therapeutic value. These therapies exert their effects through light touch, mind-body interaction, or positive expectation. Some blinded, placebo-controlled trials of Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch found beneﬁt with this therapy even in the absence of touching patients. Energy therapies include reiki, therapeutic touch, healing, polarity therapy and prayer. The most common effects are relaxation and calming. There have been no controlled clinical trials showing that these therapies are effective for either cancer treatment or symptom control.