Purpose: This study aims to summarize and critically evaluate the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong (TCQ) mind-body exercises on symptoms and quality of life (QOL) in cancer survivors.
Methods: A systematic search in four electronic databases targeted randomized and non-randomized clinical studies evaluating TCQ for fatigue, sleep difficulty, depression, pain, and QOL in cancer patients, published through August 2016. Meta-analysis was used to estimate effect sizes (ES, Hedges' g) and publication bias for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Methodological bias in RCTs was assessed.
Results: Our search identified 22 studies, including 15 RCTs that evaluated 1283 participants in total, 75% women. RCTs evaluated breast (n = 7), prostate (n = 2), lymphoma (n = 1), lung (n = 1), or combined (n = 4) cancers. RCT comparison groups included active intervention (n = 7), usual care (n = 5), or both (n = 3). Duration of TCQ training ranged from 3 to 12 weeks. Methodological bias was low in 12 studies and high in 3 studies. TCQ was associated with significant improvement in fatigue (ES = - 0.53, p < 0.001), sleep difficulty (ES = - 0.49, p = 0.018), depression (ES = - 0.27, p = 0.001), and overall QOL (ES = 0.33, p = 0.004); a statistically non-significant trend was observed for pain (ES = - 0.38, p = 0.136). Random effects models were used for meta-analysis based on Q test and I 2 criteria. Funnel plots suggest some degree of publication bias. Findings in non-randomized studies largely paralleled meta-analysis results.
Conclusions: Larger and methodologically sound trials with longer follow-up periods and appropriate comparison groups are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn, and cancer- and symptom-specific recommendations can be made.
Implications for cancer survivors: TCQ shows promise in addressing cancer-related symptoms and QOL in cancer survivors.
Keywords: Cancer; Fatigue; Meta-analysis; Qigong; Quality of life; Tai Chi.