Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

Yoga for Cancer-Related Symptoms in Women with Breast Cancer


Am Fam Physician. 2017 Oct 1;96(7):434-435.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Clinical Question

Does yoga improve mental and physical health in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Evidence-Based Answer

Yoga improves health-related quality of life, reduces sleep disturbances, and decreases fatigue in the short term (up to 12 weeks) among women diagnosed with breast cancer who have completed cancer-related treatment or are receiving cancer treatment compared with no intervention.1 (Strength of Recommendation: B, based on inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence.) There are conflicting results regarding the effect of yoga on depression and anxiety in these patients. No significant differences were noted between yoga and exercise in improving health-related quality of life and fatigue; both were effective. Yoga was not associated with serious adverse effects.1

Practice Pointers

Yoga is an ancient nonaerobic practice that focuses on breathing, flexibility, and mindfulness. It was used by 9.5% of adults in the United States in 2012.2 Studies have shown that aerobic exercise improves physical functioning as well as quality of life, and that it decreases fatigue and mortality in women diagnosed with breast cancer.1 The authors of this review sought to evaluate whether yoga also improves quality of life for these patients, and whether yoga can be used to treat symptoms associated with breast cancer and its treatment.

This Cochrane review included 23 randomized controlled trials and 2,129 patients.1 Women included in the trial were undergoing or had undergone various types of cancer treatment. Outcomes were determined using a variety of self-report instruments to evaluate health-related quality of life, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

Short-term results over five to 12 weeks showed that yoga improved health-related quality of life compared with no therapy (10 studies, N = 675; pooled standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.04 to 0.40). Yoga also improved fatigue (11 studies, N = 883; pooled SMD = −0.48; 95%

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Cramer H, Lauche R, Klose P, Lange S, Langhorst J, Dobos GJ. Yoga for improving health-related quality of life, mental health, and cancer-related symptoms in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;(1):CD010802.

2. Clark TC, Black LI, Stussman BJ, Barnes PM, Nahin RL. Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002–2012. Natl Health Stat Report. 2015;(79):1–16.

3. Greenlee H, Balneaves LG, Carlson LE, et al.; Society for Integrative Oncology. Clinical practice guidelines on the use of integrative therapies as supportive care in patients treated for breast cancer [published correction appears in J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2015;2015(51):98]. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2014;2014(50):346–358.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

This series is coordinated by Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Assistant Medical Editor.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at



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