cancer and Tai Chi & qigong

CANCER and Tai Chi & Qigong

Concept Paper
Qigong in Cancer Care: Theory, Evidence-Base, and Practice
Penelope Klein
Penelope J. Klein, professor emeritus D'Youville College, Buffalo, NY is a published researcher and scholar in the area of Qigong and its role in supportive cancer care. She is also an accomplished student and instructor of qigong (5th generation Wu Yi Joe He family system). Contact: email
Physical Therapy Program, D'Youville College, 361 Niagara St, Buffalo, NY 14201, USA;

Academic Editor: Wen Liu

Received: 28 October 2016; Accepted: 30 December 2016; Published: 12 January 2017

Abstract: Background: The purpose of this discussion is to explore the theory, evidence base, and practice of Qigong for individuals with cancer. Questions addressed are: What is qigong? How does it work? What evidence exists supporting its practice in integrative oncology? What barriers to wide-spread programming access exist? Methods: Sources for this discussion include a review of scholarly texts, the Internet, PubMed, field observations, and expert opinion. Results: Qigong is a gentle, mind/body exercise integral within Chinese medicine. Theoretical foundations include Chinese medicine energy theory, psychoneuroimmunology, the relaxation response, the meditation effect, and epigenetics. Research supports positive effects on quality of life (QOL), fatigue, immune function and cortisol levels, and cognition for individuals with cancer. There is indirect, scientific evidence suggesting that qigong practice may positively influence cancer prevention and survival.

No one Qigong exercise regimen has been established as superior. Effective protocols do have common elements: slow mindful exercise, easy to learn, breath regulation, meditation, emphasis on relaxation, and energy cultivation including mental intent and self-massage.

Conclusions: Regular practice of Qigong exercise therapy has the potential to improve cancer-related QOL and is indirectly linked to cancer prevention and survival. Wide-spread access to quality Qigong in cancer care programming may be challenged by the availability of existing programming and work force capacity.

Several clinical studies reported that a combination therapy of drugs with personal practice of QiGong provided a better outcome than drug therapy alone.
The review particularly focuses on the possible benefits of Tai Chi for cancer survivors since Tai Chi has been shown to increase immune response as well as psychological function, but only 2 randomized controlled studies have been conducted with cancer survivors. Both studies show improvements in either quality of life or functional capacity, but further research should be undertaken before any solid conclusions can be made about the usefulness of Tai Chi for cancer patients -
--Medscape Today, from WebMD, 10/26/2010

Tai Chi Enhances Oxygen Based Metabolism and Oxygent Diffusioin
It is sometimes difficult to tell how much medication versus Tai Chi is making the difference. In the case of the cancer patients, chemo and radiation therapy had failed. Since their condition did not reverse or improve until they started Tai Chi and/or forms of Qigong, it seems likely that these exercises were having significant effect (although one should never stop or replace any doctor's treatment or prescribed medications. Metarobic exercises can enhance conventional treatment, and the cancer patients used these exercises in conjunction with their treatment). Metarobic effects may help combat hypoxia (a major complication in treating cancer), by enhancing oxygen based metabolism and oxygen diffusion (1). This is critical for healing ...
-- See "Tai Chi Therapy: The Science of Metarobics"  by Dr. Peter Gryffin for a detailed overview of the role of hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) in cancer and other chronic conditions).
Pete Gryffin, PhD, MS

Breast cancer. Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. For example, a 2008 study at the University of Rochester, published in Medicine and Sport Science, found that quality of life and functional capacity (including aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility) improved in women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi, while declining in a control group that received only supportive therapy.
– Harvard Health Publications – Harvard Medical School

Qigong Improves Fatigue in Prostate Cancer Survivors
The practice of Qigong significantly improves fatigue in older men with prostate cancer, compared with a stretching regimen, according to a new study.
The favorable outcome adds to a small but growing body of evidence indicating that the ancient Chinese practice is uniquely suited to improve this vexing cancer symptom — especially in elderly patients.
Qigong consists of "slow, flowing movements, coordinated with deep breathing, and a meditative focus to balance the flow of 'Qi' or life energy for overall well-being," write the study authors, led by Rebecca Campo, MD, from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Read MedScape article ...

A 2004 study at the Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester, NY, assigned 21 women who had been treated for breast cancer to either 12 weeks of tai chi or 12 weeks of participation in a psychosocial support group, both for 1 hour, 3 times a week. The women who practiced tai chi showed significant improvements in self-esteem and quality of life when compared with the women in the psychosocial support group. According to researchers, tai chi may have more of a positive impact on self-esteem than the psychosocial support group because:
• The physical aspects of self-esteem might have more meaning for breast cancer survivors than for other groups of people.
• Since tai chi is a more active practice than participation in a support group, tai chi might help create a sense of being in control.
In a more recent Wilmot Cancer Center study published in 2006, 21 women who had been treated for breast cancer were randomly assigned either to practice tai chi or to participate in a psychosocial support group, both for 1 hour, 3 times a week for 12 weeks. This time, researchers studied the women's heart and lung function, muscular strength, and flexibility. While the women in the psychosocial support group showed improved flexibility, the women in the tai chi group showed improvements in all 3 categories, as well as a slight reduction in percentage of body fat.

Immune System Improvement:
Regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise improves T cell helper function of patients
with type 2 diabetes mellitus with an increase in T-bet transcription factor and IL-12 production.
OBJECTIVE: This study investigated the effect of a 12-week course of Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) exercise on T cell helper (Th) reaction in patients with type 2 DM.
CONCLUSIONS: A 12-week TCC exercise programme decreases HbA1c levels along with an increase in the Th1 reaction. A combination of TCC with medication may provide an even better improvement in both metabolism and immunity of patients with type 2 DM.

Tai Chi had a significant effect on functional mobility and beliefs about the health benefits of exercise. Total white blood cell and red blood cell count did not change, but a significant decrease in monocyte count occurred. A significant increase in the ratio of T helper to suppressor cells (CD4:CD8) was found, along with a significant increase in CD4CD25 regulatory T cells.
-- British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, 239-43

IMMUNE SYSTEM: A study conducted in China indicates that T'ai Chi may increase the number of T lymphocytes in the body. Also know as T-Cells, these lymphocytes help the immune system destroy bacteria and possibly even tumor cells
-- Prevention Magazine V. 42, May 90, p.14-15

Tai chi: Healing from the inside out
The best forms of healing don't always come in a bottle, a pill or any kind of external medicine. Sometimes, internal healing works best to promote overall health, and, for some people, it can be achieved through the practice of tai chi.
-- MD Anderson Cancer Center

Tai chi boosts your immune system (T-Cell count DOUBLED)
The ancient martial art of tai chi could substantially boost the body's immune system. Medisch Dossier (volume 6, number 7), a Dutch medical newsletter, reports on a study where a group of older men and women (average age of 70) practiced tai chi three days a week for 45 minutes. After fifteen weeks they not only felt healthier, but had twice the number of immune cells or so-called T-cells “with memories”, which are specially equipped to knock out the virus that causes shingles—an affliction in many older people.
-- Ode Magazine

Practicing Tai Chi Boosts Immune System in
Older Adults, UCLA Study Shows

The 25-week study, which involved a group of 112 adults ranging in age from 59 to 86, showed that practicing tai chi chih alone boosted immunity to a level comparable to having received the standard vaccine against the shingles-causing varicella zoster virus.

The findings demonstrate that tai chi chih can produce a clinically relevant boost in shingles immunity and add to the benefit of the shingles vaccine in older adults.

These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like influenza and pneumonia," said Irwin, who is also director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.

The study divided individuals into two groups. Half took tai chi chih classes three times a week for 16 weeks, while the other half attended health education classes [classes lasted 40 minutes, a set of 20 tai chi exercises] — including advice on stress management, diet and sleep habits — for the same amount of time and did not practice tai chi chih. After 16 weeks, both groups received a dose of the shingles vaccine Varivax. At the end of the 25-week period, the tai chi chih group achieved a level of immunity two times greater than the health education group. The tai chi chih group also showed significant improvements in physical functioning, vitality, mental health and reduction of bodily pain.
-- NewsRoom UCLA

A 2012 University of Wisconsin, Madison, study found that mindful meditation can cut your chances of catching a cold by 40 to 50%. Fifty-one people using mindfulness techniques logged 13 fewer illnesses and 51 fewer sick days than a control group during one cold and flu season.

A University of Virginia study found that their varsity swim team swimmers got 70% fewer respiratory infections when practicing Qigong at least once a week, compared to swimmers who used it less.
-- Prevention Magazine's Winter/2012 Issue.


Oxygen and Cancer: Low Levels Of Oxygen Can Breed Cancer...
Increasing Cellular Oxygen Can Kill Cancerous Cells
Cancer and Oxygen - pO2 levels and tumors
Cancer and Oxygen -- pO2 levels (partial pressure of oxygen) in a tumor
The link between oxygen and cancer is clear. In fact, an underlying cause of cancer is usually low cellular oxygenation levels.
In newly formed cells, low levels of oxygen damage respiration enzymes so that the cells cannot produce energy using oxygen. These cells can then turn cancerous because they don't make enough energy to function normally in the body.

In 1931 Dr. Warburg won his first Nobel Prize for proving cancer is caused by a lack of oxygen respiration in cells. He stated in an article titled "The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer... the cause of cancer is no longer a mystery, we know it occurs whenever any cell is denied 60% of its oxygen requirements..."
Read entire article

Tai Chi's hyper-effect on oxygen saturation levels is detailed in
"Tai Chi Therapy: The Science of Metarobics" by Dr. Pete Gryffin

Dr. Shin Lin, University of California at Irvine researcher on Tai Chi and oxygenation of cells
Click for video

Resolute: Scott Stephens has turned his lifestyle around in his dedication to complementary therapy
Complementing cancer
Sceptics have long scoffed at the role complementary therapy plays in treating cancer, but evidence is mounting that it works. Lynnette Hoffman reports

June 17, 2006

IF you'd asked Scott Stephens's mates six or seven years ago, it's doubtful any would have envisaged the then cabinetmaker as a New Age sort of bloke.

At 23 Stephens was a juicy-steak-loving carnivore who enjoyed a cold stubby after a hard day. But a diagnosis of advanced melanoma followed by multiple operations, bouts of immunotherapy and chemotherapy and three relapses has changed a few things.

Two years ago Stephens began learning the basics of meditation and changing his lifestyle, but it wasn't until about six months later, when the cancer re-emerged in his chest and spread to his pelvis and bowel, that he decided to really get serious.

Today his diet is strictly vegan, all organic, nothing genetically modified, and he doesn't touch alcohol. He meditates for a couple hours a day, exercises daily and practises chi kung, a form of exercise similar to tai chi . . .

Read entire article at:


1. Mustian K M, Katula J A, Gill D L, Roscoe J A, Lang D, Murphy K. Tai Chi Chuan, health-related quality of life and self-esteem: a randomized trial with breast cancer survivors. Support Care Cancer 2004; (12): 871-876.


1. Cassileth, B.R. (1999). Evaluating complementary and alternative therapies for cancer patients. [Review] [60 refs]. Ca: a Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 49(6), 362-375.


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* NOTE: World Tai Chi & Qigong Day advises consulting your physician before beginning any new exercise, herbal, diet, or health program. The research listed here is meant to stimulate a discussion between you and your physician, health insurance carrier, etc., not as medical advise. Research and comments provided here are hoped to stimulate a more robust discussion of powerful natural mind/body health tools. Popular media, health media, and government must increase attention to stunning emerging research, including the UCLA study indicating Tai Chi participants enjoyed a 50% increase in immune system resistance to viral infection.



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