Purpose: Qigong as a complementary and alternative modality of traditional Chinese medicine is often used by cancer patients to manage their symptoms. The aim of this systematic review is to critically evaluate the effectiveness of qigong exercise in cancer care.
Methods: Thirteen databases were searched from their inceptions through November 2010. All controlled clinical trials of qigong exercise among cancer patients were included. The strength of the evidence was evaluated for all included studies using the Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine Levels of Evidence. The validity of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was also evaluated using the Jadad Scale.
Results: Twenty-three studies including eight RCTs and fifteen non-randomized controlled clinical trials (CCTs) were identified. The effects of qigong on physical and psychosocial outcomes were examined in 14 studies and the effects on biomedical outcomes were examined in 15 studies. For physical and psychosocial outcomes, it is difficult to draw a conclusion due to heterogeneity of outcome measures and variability of the results in the included studies. Among reviewed studies on biomedical outcomes, a consistent tendency appears to emerge which suggests that the patients treated with qigong exercise in combination with conventional methods had significant improvement in immune function than the patients treated with conventional methods alone.
Conclusions: Due to high risk of bias and methodological problems in the majority of included studies, it is still too early to draw conclusive statements. Further vigorously designed large-scale RCTs with validated outcome measures are needed.