Meditation is a way to consciously focus your attention and become more aware of yourself without judging in order to enter a state of relaxation.

There is growing evidence that supports the use of meditation during and following cancer treatment to help you cope with symptoms such as pain, anxiety, depression, stress, memory loss, and fatigue. In addition, meditation can help you gain a sense of wellbeing, perspective and sense of control over your life situation.

Scientists are still learning but studies suggest that meditation reduces 'stress' activation, allowing the heart and breathing rates to slow. During and after meditation there is also more activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for positive emotions (love, belonging, happiness) and less activity in the part responsible for fear, anxiety, and anger.

Meditation is a self-directed mind-body therapy. Therefore, it could work for you even if you live in a remote location, have limited financial resources, or difficulties leaving your home. You can learn meditation by watching online demonstrations, purchasing audio or video tapes, or reading print instructions. In addition, there may be classes available in your city/town; check out the Community Cancer Connections resource directory by clicking here.

Meditation has very few negative side effects and should not interfere but rather complement any other health-related treatments you are receiving. We recommend that you inform your healthcare provider about your meditation practice and why you decided to use it. They may want you to share your responses to meditation during your healthcare visits so that they can adjust treatments accordingly.

If you have further questions about meditation, we invite you to investigate our additional information or contact the office to speak to one of our staff.

Why should I use meditation?

There is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of meditation during and following cancer treatment. Meditation has been found to help cancer survivors cope with:

  • Chronic and acute pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Functional abilities and everyday stress
  • Quality of life
  • Insomnia and poor sleep quality
  • Depression
  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Energy loss and fatigue
  • Loss of objectivity and emotional highs/lows
  • Emotional as well as physical suffering, and
  • Anxiety and fear

To summarize, there is fairly consistent research evidence suggesting that meditation facilitates a return to wellbeing in persons with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, helps them to gain perspective and a sense of control, and creates opportunities for personal change and growth.

How does meditaiton work?

Practicing meditation has been shown to induce changes in several body systems. Research is currently underway to try to determine just how meditation might work with our nervous and immune systems that then create the physical, psychological, and spiritual healing changes.

Studies suggest that meditation might work by affecting decreasing the flight or fight response and increasing the nervous system response that slows the heart and breathing rates. Other Other studies suggest that meditation actually changes brain function and pathways, increasing the activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for positive emotions (love, belonging, happiness) and decreasing the activity in the part that is responsible for fear, anxiety, and anger.

It is also possible that practicing meditation may work by improving the mind's ability to pay attention. Mindfulness meditation is particularly helpful in restructuring what you pay attention to, how you react (critically or non-judgmentally) to situations that occur, and your ultimate response to things that occur in your everyday life.

How do I choose a class or meditaiton instructor?

There is no governing body, standardized guidelines or required credentials for meditation instructors. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals, Inc., offers a full online program of continuing education courses which, when completed, qualifies participants to apply for and receive Meditation Instructor Certification. To meet the certification requirements, one must successfully complete 150 hours of education. Certification is a voluntary process and is different than any type of licensing. There are many other Meditation Programs, such as the International Meditation Instructors Training & Certification program and The Meditation Instructor Certification Program offered by the University of Holistic Theology.

Selecting a provider will require careful decision-making on your part. Because each of us is unique, what works best for others, may not necessarily work best for you. Find a meditation program that uses techniques that appeal to you - some people like to move. Therefore a meditation that uses mindful walking (such as labyrinth walking) might be best. Others prefer to sit quietly, focusing on music or pictures.

How do I talk to my healthcare provider about using meditation?

Inform your healthcare provider about your use of meditation and your reasons for its use. Keep notes/journal that summarizes or documents your response to meditation before and after treatment and then share that information during your health care visits. That way your provider can ask about responses you might be having and monitor you for needed changes in medications and treatments, once you begin to experience positive results. Do not stop medications you might be on, hoping that meditation will decrease your need for these medications. Your healthcare provider can advise you if changes are needed. In addition, if you are taking cardiovascular medication, neurology medication or insulin medication to speak with your provider before you start using meditation. And, if you are seeing a psychiatrist for chronic mental health issues check with your physician before beginning meditation.

Have others with cancer used meditation?

Meditation is used by many cancer survivors to help cope with anxieties and fears as well as the side effects of cancer treatment. Some of those using meditation have stated: "I feel energized, happier and better able to cope with life's upside downs". "When you become mindful you suddenly become aware of what is normal and not so normal you can be aware earlier when there is a problem". "My 'express–train' brain slowed down, so that I can escape it's fury for a time". "Staying connected with who I am". "It helps me stay calm when my head is full of thoughts it allows me to clear my head and calm myself". "It helps me gain distance from everyday things and gain a clear perspective".

What is mediation like?

Three Meditations led by Janet Quinn, PhD, RN, FAAN November 2008 MISSING VIDEO?