Meditation is a method of relaxation and mental restoration that is implemented by many individuals. It has long been proven to instill a sense of peacefulness and balance within the body and mind. For cancer patients, like those with mesothelioma cancer, meditation has many benefits, as it can provide a sense of relaxation and calm in the midst of a debilitating disease. Patients that suffer from mesothelioma, for example, experience a welcome respite from the anxiety and uncertainty that results from an asbestos cancer diagnosis when incorporating meditation into their mesothelioma treatment plan.
Meditation is said to have originated in the ancient eastern countries of China, Tibet, India and Japan. It became popular in the United States in the sixties as part of a new cultural movement associated with that time period. In the 1980's, meditation was first used alongside traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and mesothelioma radiation.
By definition, meditation is a "discipline in which the mind is focused on an object of thought or awareness." Those who practice meditation may rely on the repetition of certain phrases or words, also known as mantras, paired with deep-breathing exercises, or they may envision various calming scenarios or situations in an effort to increase the wellbeing of their body and soul. Cancer patients may appreciate the temporary distraction from their debilitating reality, as meditation can provide time for reflection and focus. Stretching and other body movement is often combined with meditation in an effort to provide a whole-body experience for cancer patients.
Although meditation may not be helpful for all individuals, it can be a very beneficial alternative treatment method for certain cancer sufferers. Prior to incorporating body movement, including yoga or stretching, into a meditative routine, patients should consult with their doctors to ensure that they are healthy enough to undergo these activities.
The American Cancer Society reports that meditation and similar relaxation methods have been studied and found to be beneficial to cancer patients who are suffering from general stress, anxiety and depression but also from side effects of cancer treatment, such as chemo. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) approves meditation as a treatment for chronic pain and insomnia and additional studies have shown that incorporating meditation into a cancer patient's treatment plan can improve their quality of life.
Malignant mesothelioma cancer patients who undergo regular meditation sessions have reported a reduction in chronic pain, a decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and have also experienced improvement in mood and alertness and an overall feeling of relaxation. In addition, regular meditation may lessen a patient's need to rely on health care services.
The most effective meditation schedule for people with chronic pain and other health concerns, including cancer patients, is no less than seven weeks. Previous studies showed that cancer patients who experienced regular meditation for this period of time had 31% few symptoms of stress and an improved mood, which doctors believe can greatly increase the likelihood that a patient will recover faster.
Guided imagery is a powerful technique centered on the imagination of the participant. Utilizing a program of thoughts and images, a guided imagery therapist guides the imagination of the participant towards a relaxed and focused state of mind. Those involved in cancer care are now beginning to recognize the impact of imagery on the health of patients. While many conceive guided imagery as a purely mental technique, properly conducted sessions are whole body sensory experiences that can have a powerful impact.
As a meditative technique for patients undergoing cancer care, guided imagery often involves the patient imagining the cancer inside their body shrinking and dissolving, as they visualize the effects and benefits of the treatment they may be receiving. There are no risks associated with guided imagery, but patients should alert their doctors before beginning any alternative or complementary therapies.
Breathwork Therapy for Cancer Care
Breathwork involves the alteration of breathing rhythms, connecting inhaling and exhaling during meditation or some form of psychotherapy. Breathwork has been used for many different purposes ranging from purported altered states of consciousness, to more conventional relaxation techniques in conjunction with meditation, tai chi, or yoga.
Patients undergoing cancer treatment, including mesothelioma and lung cancer patients, have used different types of breathing therapies to combat shortness of breath and chest pain. Breath therapies for thoracic cancer patients attempt to teach patients to use their entire lung capacity as opposed to shallow breaths that utilize only the top of the lungs. An experienced physician will often oversee the integration of equipment, including the use of a nebulizer, into a thoracic cancer patient’s breathing therapy regimen.
American Cancer Society Meditation Information Webpage