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.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.