This treatment modality is thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health. Meditation should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does meditation involve?
There are many forms of meditation, from spiritual to secular approaches, all which involve mental control. While meditation has its roots in Eastern religious traditions to correct imbalances of the mind, its health benefits are independent of spiritual aspects. Most types of meditation employ concentration on breathing and a silent repetition of a word or prayer to release anxiety and extraneous stress. The simplicity of most instructions makes this approach available to almost anyone.
How is meditation thought to improve wellness and optimize overall health?
The overall goal is to improve health in general and facilitate the healing of certain disorders by inducing mental tranquility and physical relaxation. The reported benefits include reduction of stress, tension, anxiety, panic, high blood pressure and chronic pain. In cancer patients, benefits appear to include diminished pain, reduced stress hormone levels, improved immune function and improvement in mood. By calming the mind and relaxing the body, meditation may help cancer patients alleviate the harmful effects of tension and stress and change negative coping responses that may aggravate their conditions and reduce life expectancy.
What has been proven about the benefit of meditation?
There is scientific evidence that the mind, in meditation, can effect physiological changes in the human body. Studies on biochemical effects of meditation have reported mixed results. Positive responses have included reduction in serum cortisol, blood pressure and pulse rate. According to a few studies, some of these physiologic changes may inhibit tumor growth or metastasis. Reported actions are increased survival of patients with various cancers, increased peace of mind and inhibition of stress-induced immunosuppression. However, without solid evidence, meditation should not be used as a curative therapy but as one that reduces stress, promotes wellness and improves quality of life.
What is the potential risk or harm of meditation?
Only a few negative effects are reported with the use of meditation. These include negativity, disorientation, worsened interpersonal relationships and increased alienation from society. However, these side effects are very rare. Nevertheless, patients with a disposition to mental illness should consult a physician before beginning a meditation program.
How much does meditation therapy cost?
Many people take lessons in meditation that vary in cost, but it is possible to learn meditation techniques at home, using books and videos.
For additional information:
Insight Meditation Society
1230 Pleasant Street
Barre, MA 01005
Telephone: (508) 355-4378
Web site: www.dharma.org/ims.htm
Mind-Body Medical Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital
Harvard Medical School
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
Telephone: (617) 632-9530
Web site: www.bidmc.org
Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society
University of Massachusetts Medical Center
55 Lake Avenue North
Worchester, MA 01655
Telephone: (508) 856-2656
Web site: www.umassmed.edu/cfm/
The Worldwide Online Meditation Center
P.O. Box 660431
Sacramento, CA 95866
Web site: www.meditationcenter.com
Creating Health: How to Wake Up the Body's Intelligence. Deepak Chopra. Houghton Mifflin Co, 1995.
The Art of Meditation. Joel S. Goldsmith, HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery. Lawrence Leshan. Bantam Books, 1984.
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.