Qigong intervention for breast cancer survivors with complaints of decreased cognitive function

Support Care Cancer. 2019 Apr;27(4):1395-1403. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4430-8. Epub 2018 Aug 21.


Purpose: The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility of an 8-week Qigong intervention to improve objectively and subjectively assessed cognitive function in breast cancer survivors who were 2 months to 8 years post completion of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Methods: A randomized, single-blind, three-arm intervention pilot was conducted to compare Qigong to gentle exercise and survivorship support. Feasibility was measured by recruitment, group session attendance, and adherence to home practice for the two exercise groups. Changes in self-report and objectively measured cognitive function were compared between the three groups from baseline (T1) to completion of the intervention (T2) and 4 weeks post intervention (T3).

Results: Fifty participants consented (83% of desired sample) with an overall attrition rate of 28%. Attrition was highest for the gentle exercise group (50%). Group attendance adherence ranged from 44 to 67%. The a priori established rate of 75% weekly attendance was not achieved, nor was the goal of 75% adherence to home practice for the two exercise groups (7 to 41%). Self-report of cognitive function improved most for the Qigong group (p = .01). Improvement was demonstrated for the Trail Making A (gentle exercise, p = .007) and F-A-S verbal fluency (support group, p = .02) tests. Qigong participants reported the most reduction of distress (p = .02).

Conclusions: The study results suggest that mindfulness-based exercise may be superior to gentle exercise alone or survivorship support for improving self-report of cognitive function and distress after treatment for breast cancer. The mindfulness component may enhance the positive impact of exercise on cognitive function.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cognitive function; Intervention; Mindfulness-based exercise; Qigong.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Qigong*
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome