Yoga, breast cancer-related lymphoedema and well-being: A descriptive report of women's participation in a clinical trial

J Clin Nurs. 2017 Dec;26(23-24):4685-4695. doi: 10.1111/jocn.13819. Epub 2017 Jun 22.


Aims and objectives: To describe the experiences of women taking part in a yoga intervention trial for breast cancer-related lymphoedema.

Background: Around 20% of women will experience lymphoedema as a consequence of treatment for breast cancer. Specialist lymphoedema clearing, along with self-management, remains the mainstay of therapy. Yoga, an increasingly popular complementary therapeutic practice, may provide another tool to augment self-management.

Design: A qualitative, descriptive design.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with 15 women with stage one breast cancer-related lymphoedema who had completed an 8-week yoga intervention trial. The intervention consisted of a weekly teacher-led 1.5-hr yoga class and a daily home practice using a 45-min DVD. Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. These data were then analysed using an iterative-thematic approach.

Results: Participants reported improved well-being, increased awareness of their physical body as well as improved physical, mental and social functioning. They gained from being part of the yoga group that also provided a forum for them to share their experiences. Nine women felt empowered to describe their yoga participation as a transformative journey through illness.

Conclusion: When safe to do so, the holistic practice of yoga may augment and provide additional benefit to current self-management and treatment practices for women with breast cancer-related lymphoedema.

Relevance to clinical practice: Patients with breast cancer-related lymphoedema may seek advice and guidance from nurses and other healthcare professionals on a range of complementary therapies to help relieve symptoms and promote recovery. Patients who choose to augment their treatment of breast cancer-related lymphoedema by practicing yoga should be carefully assessed, be taught an appropriate technique by a qualified yoga teacher/therapist and its impact monitored by their yoga teacher/therapist, breast care nurse, lymphoedema therapist or treating clinician.

Keywords: breast cancer; exercise; journey; lymphoedema; nursing; well-being; women; yoga.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphedema / etiology
  • Lymphedema / psychology
  • Lymphedema / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self-Management / methods*
  • Yoga / psychology*