Yoga May Benefit Breast Cancer Survivors Battling Menopause Symptoms

03/12/08  Portland, Ore.

Research finds that breast cancer survivors enrolled in unique yoga program report decreased frequency and severity of menopausal symptoms

 A new study recently presented this week at the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research in Los Angeles, Calif., indicates that a one-of-a-kind yoga program which combines yoga exercises, meditation and group discussion may alleviate the ills of menopause in female survivors of breast cancer.

The research shows that early stage breast-cancer survivors enrolled in the yoga program witnessed a significant decline in hot flash severity and frequency, fatigue, joint pain and frequency of sleep disturbance. The study group, comprising 37 currently disease-free women with reported menopausal symptoms, continued to show significant improvement even after they were no longer attending the yoga program sessions.

Menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors have traditionally been difficult to treat, as recent studies have indicated that hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a common menopause treatment, increases breast cancer incidence. Furthermore, tamoxifen, a drug commonly taken by breast cancer survivors to prevent cancer reoccurrence, can intensify symptoms of menopause. Some research has also indicated that tamoxifen can trigger menopause-like symptoms in young women who have not yet reached menopause.

“Breast cancer survivors have very few options to seek treatment,” coauthor James Carson, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and peri-operative medicine, Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine said. “Taking into account previous research I’d done on cancer-related pain and yoga, it seemed as if this yoga program, tailored to the needs of menopausal women, might help.”

The yoga program, co-developed by Dr. Carson and his wife and coauthor Kimberly Carson, M.P.H., R.Y.T, is a unique blend of the yoga postures found in many U.S. gyms, in-depth meditation practices and group discussions about the practice of yoga. In the study, which was conducted at Duke University Medical Center, women enrolled in the two-month yoga program attended eight two-hour sessions led by the Carsons and also practiced yoga at home. The control group was placed on the yoga program’s waitlist for six months.

The specialized yoga program, titled “Yoga of Awareness,” draws upon the Carsons’ deep body of yoga experience. Dr. Carson served as a yogic monk for 12 years prior to attending graduate school and has 25 years of yoga teaching experience. Kimberly Carson is a health educator and certified teacher of Kripalu yoga, integral yoga, pre- and postnatal yoga and cardiac yoga.  

The OHSU Center for Women’s Health will begin offering the Carson’s Yoga of Awareness classes in August 2008. These classes will be geared to the general public, instead of tailored specifically to cancer survivors. For more information on these classes as it becomes available, visit: For more information on Yoga of Awareness, visit:

The study was funded by a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Coauthors of the study also include Laura Porter, Ph.D., assistant professor, Duke University Medical Center, and Francis Keefe, Ph.D., professor, Duke University Medical Center.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and only academic health center. As Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves more than 184,000 patients, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,900 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.