I have a patient, in fact a movie producer with metastatic colon cancer, who had liver metastases. He enrolled in a clinical trial (SWOG 80405) and responded very well to chemotherapy. His liver metastases were not resectable at first, but because his tumor shrank so dramatically, he became resectable. He underwent surgery with curative intent, meaning to remove all tumors, which was successful. He finished further chemotherapy and is right now cancer free. He is one of the success stories of aggressive chemotherapy.
He did very well with chemotherapy and he attributes his attitude and very few side effects to his regular tai chi. So I did some research on tai chi and found interesting information I wanted to share with you.
The following material is from the American Cancer Society:
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art. It is a mind-body, self-healing system that uses movement, meditation, and breathing to improve health and well being.
It has been shown that tai chi may improve posture, balance, muscle mass and tone, flexibility, stamina, and strength in older adults. Tai chi is also recognized as a method to reduce stress that can provide the same cardiovascular benefits as moderate exercise, such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure.
People who practice the deep breathing and physical movements of tai chi report it makes them feel more relaxed. The slow movements of tai chi together with rhythmic breathing can relax the body as well as the mind. Research has found that tai chi can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. There is also evidence that tai chi is particularly suited for older adults or for others who are not physically strong or healthy.
Tai chi students begin by learning a series of gentle, deliberate movements flowing into body positions called forms. Each form contains between 20 to 100 moves, and requires up to 20 minutes to complete. Each form derives its name from nature, for example, “Wave Hands Like Clouds,” or “Grasping the Bird’s Tail.” In order to balance the yin and yang, the movements are practiced in pairs of opposites. For example, a turn to the right follows one to the left.
While doing these exercises, the person is urged to pay close attention to his or her breathing, which is centered in the diaphragm. Tai chi emphasizes technique rather than strength or power, although the slow, precise movements require good muscle control. Tai chi is taught in many health clubs, schools, and recreational facilities.
Clinical trials suggest that tai chi improves posture, balance, flexibility, muscle mass and tone, stamina, and strength in older adults and may help prevent falls and fractures. A recent small study of breast cancer survivors compared tai chi 3 times a week with another group. The women who were in the tai chi group had improved flexibility, strength, and aerobic capacity, whereas the women in the other group had improvements in flexibility only. Another randomized clinical trial of people over age 69 compared tai chi to a stretching exercise class. After 6 months, the tai chi group had better balance and fewer falls than the stretching group. There is no evidence that tai chi can cure cancer or any other disease, although it does suggest it may be helpful when used along with conventional treatment.