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Interior Cancer Journal

Evidence-Based Yoga Interventions for Patients with Cancer

Introducing patients with cancer to the practice of yoga can help them cope with the side effects of treatment and the psychological effects of the disease. In an article published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing in April 2016,1 co-authors Angela Sisk, RN, OCN, AHN-BC CYN, and Marsha Fonteyn, Ph.D., provide details about the benefits of yoga and the development and implementation of a yoga class for patients with cancer at the Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Greater Heights. They also offer suggestions on ways nurses can integrate yoga into oncology nursing and cancer care.

“Healthcare practitioners are increasingly interested in mind-body techniques, including yoga, and at the same time more patients who are undergoing treatment or are cancer survivors are asking about the benefits of yoga to their physical and emotional health,” says Sisk, who is an Oncology Nurse Navigator at the Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Greater Heights in addition to being a certified YogaNurse®. “Studies done by researchers in the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found yoga to be beneficial in improving sleep, decreasing the side effects of cancer treatment, improving quality of life and helping patients find meaning from the illness experience as they transition into cancer survivorship.”

Angela Sisk

Angela Sisk, RN, OCN, AHN-BC, CYN
Oncology Nurse Navigator with Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital

Sisk observes that yoga is included as an intervention in the Oncology Nursing Society’s Putting Evidence into Practice (PEP) guidelines. The PEP guidelines on yoga note that it has been examined as an intervention for anxiety, depression, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, hot flashes, cognitive impairment, sleep-wake disturbances, pain and fatigue in patients with cancer, as well as for caregiver strain and burden, and “is most likely effective” for fatigue and anxiety.

Sisk, who has been practicing yoga for 20 years and completed yoga teacher training in 2011, developed the weekly one-hour yoga class for cancer survivors and their family members at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital in 2012. Her article in collaboration with Dr. Fonteyn came about through the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing mentorship program, which teaches nurses about writing and publishing for a peer-reviewed journal. When Sisk expressed interest in the program, she was matched with Dr. Fonteyn, a retired nurse scientist who resides in California and Vermont.

Participants in the yoga class led by Sisk must sign a release before attending the free classes. “It’s not a strenuous class. We do chair yoga and focus on breathing and relaxation,” says Sisk, who presented on yoga and cancer care at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 41st Annual Congress held April 28-May 1 in San Antonio, Texas. “Nurses can integrate some very basic techniques into their nursing practice to help their patients without having to go through intensive yoga training. It’s also beneficial for the nurse. We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.”

For more information about the class at the Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Greater Heights or about the practice of yoga and nursing, call Sisk at 713.867.2062.

1 Sisk A, Fonteyn M. Evidence-Based Yoga Interventions for Patients with Cancer. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2016 Apr 1;20(2):181-6.