Tai chi and qigong are forms of mind-body exercise and meditation that may help with symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatments.
How do experts use tai chi or qigong?
Both medical groups and integrative experts provide recommendations for tai chi or qigong in treating people with cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations: Integrative Oncology Programs and Expert Guidelines ›
Clinical practice guidelines
2009 evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology conclude that therapies based on a philosophy of bioenergy fields are safe and may provide some benefit for reducing stress and enhancing quality of life. Only limited evidence is available regarding their efficacy for symptom management, including reducing pain and fatigue.
The Society for Integrative Oncology recommends use of tai chi, qigong, and other similar therapies for these symptoms:
- For reducing anxiety: grade 1B (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)
- For pain, fatigue, and other symptom management: grade 1C (strong recommendation, low- or very low-quality evidence)
Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment › This set of guidelines has been endorsed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).1Lyman GH, Greenlee H et al. Integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment: ASCO endorsement of the SIO clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2018 Sep 1;36(25):2647-2655.
SIO concludes that qigong can be considered for improving quality of life. Based on evidence, the use of qigong is rated Grade C (at least moderate certainty that the net benefit is small).
Published programs and approaches
Tai chi and/or qigong is used in programs, approaches, and protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care from these integrative oncologists, drawing from both scientific research and observations from years or even decades of treating people with cancer:
Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella (tai chi)
Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. 2010.
Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Thriving after Cancer: A Five-Step Integrative Plan to Reduce the Risk of Recurrence and Build Lifelong Health. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 2013.
Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, and Alison Jefferies, MEd (tai chi and qigong)
Cohen L, Jefferies A. Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six. New York: Viking. 2018.
This book introduces the concept of the Mix of Six, which is identical to six of our 7 Healing Practices ›
Dr. Cohen and Ms. Jefferies explain that while each plays an independent role, the synergy created by all six factors can radically transform health, delay or prevent many cancers, support conventional treatments, and significantly improve quality of life.
Gerald Lemole, MD; Pallav Mehta, MD; and Dwight McKee, MD (tai chi)
Lemole GM, Mehta PK, McKee DL. After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer. New York, New York: Rodale, Inc. 2015.
These doctors present easy-to-incorporate lifestyle changes to help you “turn on” hundreds of genes that fight cancer, and “turn off” the ones that encourage cancer, while recommending lifestyle approaches to address each type.
Gurdev Parmar, ND, FABNO, and Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO (qigong for non-Hodgkins lymphoma)
Parmar G, Kaczor T. Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care. 1st edition. Medicatrix Holdings Ltd. 2020.
This book provides information on the treatment of 24 cancers, plus the most effective treatments of the most common symptoms affecting cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery.
Learn more about traditional medicine and how to find practitioners: Finding Integrative Oncologists and Other Professionals ›
Other expert assessments
Current Oncology Reports
An expert review of evidence suggests that tai chi and qigong “might have a potential role in alleviating cancer-related fatigue.”3David A, Hausner D, Frenkel M. Cancer-related fatigue-is there a role for complementary and integrative medicine? Current Oncology Reports. 2021 Nov 7;23(12):145.
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