Along with a cancer diagnosis come the inevitable feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, and a loss of control. Accessing the intimate mind-body connection has been proven to benefit the healing process.
Dozens of studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions have significant effects on dealing with the symptoms of cancer; including: pain, fatigue, nausea, and other treatment side effects. Mindfulness also helps the patient deal with stress by encouraging a focus on the present moment. Strong, new evidence suggests that the benefits of mindfulness practices extend even further. The latest studies have found that mindfulness interventions have an impact on the immune system and stress-related hormones, giving patients an edge in fighting their disease.
A study conducted at the Tom Baker Cancer Center in Calgary, Canada found that mindfulness interventions protect cells from premature aging. Telomeres, located at the end of chromosomes, are negatively impacted by chronic stress. Furthermore, in a separate study conducted with breast cancer patients, doctors found that mindfulness meditation boosted the production of telomerase - the enzyme which protects telomeres. Given that decreased telomerase activity and shorter telomere length have been shown to predict cancer mortality, the study provides clues that mindfulness practice may help fight the disease itself.