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What Are the Benefits of Meditation for Cancer?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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Cancer is a physical, mental, and emotional stress on the body. Meditation for cancer can benefit the cancer patient by somewhat reducing all of these stresses. Physically, meditation can help alleviate some of the discomforts of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Mentally and emotionally, meditation for cancer helps to build or maintain a positive attitude and reduce stress. Many forms of meditation have been found to benefit cancer patients.

One of the physical benefits of meditation for cancer is to boost the immune system, which is often damaged by anti-cancer drugs and the stress of having cancer. Many cancer patients report issues with insomnia, caused either by the drugs they are taking or the stress of being sick. Meditation has been shown to be an effective tool in combating insomnia by calming and relaxing the patient. The pain associated with having cancer and the cancer treatments themselves are somewhat mitigated by meditation. Lower doses of pain killers, delaying the use of pain killers until treatment is further along, or a reduced need for medications to relieve the side effects of treatment is often possible when cancer patients practice meditation.

The psychological benefits of meditation for cancer are overwhelming. Meditation promotes calmness, reduces stress, builds an overall feeling of well being, and helps patients sustain a positive attitude. Cancer treatment is often a long and difficult journey, and all of these benefits of meditation can help patients to better handle this hardship. Many doctors feel patients with an overall positive outlook on their disease have a much better chance of surviving.

There are two main forms of meditation that are used in cancer treatment. One form of meditation for cancer involves both the mind and the body in physical and mental exercises, such as qigong, tai chi, and aikido. A second form of meditation for cancer is more traditional and primarily involves the mind, such as transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, and emptiness meditation. The point of most of these forms of meditation is to take the mind away from the everyday worry and to either focus on something small or to empty the mind as much as possible.

Most doctors consider meditation for cancer to be complimentary therapy, meaning it is meant to enhance medical treatment for cancer, not replace it. No large scale studies have shown that meditation alone has cured cancer, so meditation should never be relied on as a panacea for cancer. The power of this form of complimentary therapy is being widely recognized by oncologists, and many major cancer centers now offer meditation as a part of their treatment programs.

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