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Active lifestyle the best remedy for Vietnamese cancer patients

Monday, June 24, 2019, 17:34 GMT+7
Active lifestyle the best remedy for Vietnamese cancer patients
Sean Stocker and his students spend time on musical meditation. Photo: Huy Dang / Tuoi Tre

Maintaining an active rather than passive lifestyle, such as doing exercise or practicing yoga, will have a positive impact on cancer patients.

During a recent workshop in Vietnam, Dr. Jorge Nieva, a leading expert in cancer from the University of Southern California, said that most research on different types of cancer indicates doing exercise has a positive impact on patients.

According to the expert, experiments show that the more inactive a patient gets, the bigger chances their disease will become complicated.

Patients who spend less than five hours every 60 days walking or moving tend to need more urgent medical assistance, while physically active patients have the least problems, he underlined.

Nieva advised consulting doctors for the most suitable form of exercise.

“It’s mostly walking though,” he noted.

Instructor Sean Stocker works with his cancer students. Photo: Supplied

Instructor Sean Stocker works with his cancer students in this supplied photo.

Data from the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) show that lung cancer patients who have kept up with their physical activities have a 42 percent chance of surviving for more than one year. Meanwhile, those who stay on the bed half of their time enjoy a mere 19 percent.

Breast cancer patients who exercise regularly have the lowest death rate, according to a study by Harvard University.

Many tend to think avoiding physical movement and doing exercise can help them better than forcing them to work out.

“But we have to tell people that doing exercise really matters,” Dr. Nieva said.

Thuy Muoi or Dr. Pham Truong Giang are the concrete evidence that a positive and active lifestyle can combat cancer effectively, he said, referring to two ‘cancer fighters’ featured in previous stories by Tuoi Tre News.

Thuy Muoi is a well-known young business woman who founded the Salt Cancer Initiative (SCI) to help cancer patients in Vietnam. She has final stage lung cancer.

Dr. Pham Truong Giang is a record cancer case in the Southeast Asian country. He has lived with five different cancers and played tennis for the last 16 years.

Gauranga - the spell against cancer

Located inside a mall in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City is a yoga class for cancer patients run by the SCI.

There are approximately 30 students, both male and female, who come from different age groups.

Among them is Nguyen Thi Thuong Huyen, who has had breast cancer for six years.

“I am an aerobics instructor, so I’m used to exercising,” she said.

“I keep on exercising even after I found out about my cancer.”

But Huyen had to give up exercising a year ago, when one of her legs started to get swollen.

She then signed up for a yoga class at the SCI, which helps her to be able to “get to exercise and monitor [her] body without affecting [her] condition.”

Cancer patients participate in a yoga class by SCI in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Huy Dang / Tuoi Tre

Cancer patients participate in a yoga class run by the SCI in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Huy Dang / Tuoi Tre

For learners of the yoga class, the highlight of each session is the meditation with Australian instructor Sean Stocker, who would ask them to join him in chanting an Indian song he calls the “Gauranga spell” together.

“It’s actually the melody that makes it tick as it soothes their minds and eases their mental strain,” Stocker said.

The instructor admitted that it is quite different working with cancer patients. “I had never done this in Australia, so the SCI has given me a great opportunity,” he added.

He further commented that in order to devise the most appropriate yoga moves for each student, he needed to get to know them personally.

“I am not a doctor, but cancer patients and their family need to be at their mental best, and yoga is surely good for the mind,” said Stocker.

“Yoga exercises are suitable for most people and do not pose any serious injury threats, so I think they are right for cancer patients.”

Yoga and cancer

Yoga is highly encouraged in anti-cancer groups worldwide.

According to Cancer Research UK, yoga offers mental therapy, helping patients to overcome their worries, stress and depression.

Their surveys of cancer patients show that yoga helps them relax during treatment and lessens symptoms as well as side effects such as pain, fatigue and sleepiness.

Other small-scale studies also indicate that yoga actually helps to fight back pain, high blood pressure, asthma, epileptic and depression.

In 2012, a study conducted in the U.S. indicated the therapeutic effect of yoga on breast cancer.

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