Could yoga practice improve treatment-related side effects and quality of life for women with breast cancer? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Asia Pac J Clin Oncol. 2017 Apr;13(2):e79-e95. doi: 10.1111/ajco.12329. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


Aim: To determine if yoga as a complementary and alternative therapy was associated with enhanced health and treatment-related side effects in patients with breast cancer. This systematic review examines whether yoga practice provides any measurable benefit, both physically and psychologically, for women with breast cancer.

Methods: PubMed, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) throughout June 2013. We evaluated the quality of the included studies by the Cochrane Handbook 5.2 standards and analyzed the data using the Stata software, version 10.0. Meta-regression and subgroup analysis were also performed to identify additional predictors of outcome and to assess heterogeneity.

Results: Sixteen RCTs with a total of 930 participants were included. Comparing yoga groups to control groups, there was a statistically significant difference in overall health-related quality of life, depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal symptoms. Meta-regression analyses revealed that the duration of yoga practice and type of control group partly explained the heterogeneity. Subgroup analyses revealed that yoga had a positive effect on anxiety only when it had been practiced for longer than 3 months. Only the wait-list control group showed an effect of yoga on physical well-being.

Conclusion: The current evidence demonstrates that yoga practice could be effective in enhancing health and managing some treatment-related side effects for patients recovering from breast cancer. In future clinical studies, clinicians should consider the patient's wishes along with the current best evidence of the effects of yoga practice in their clinical decision-making.

Keywords: breast cancer; complementary and alternative medicine; meta-analysis; treatment-related side effect; yoga.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Yoga*