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Qigong intervention for breast cancer survivors with complaints of decreased cognitive function



The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility of an 8-week Qigong intervention to improve objectively and subjectively assessed cognitive function in breast cancer survivors who were 2 months to 8 years post completion of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


A randomized, single-blind, three-arm intervention pilot was conducted to compare Qigong to gentle exercise and survivorship support. Feasibility was measured by recruitment, group session attendance, and adherence to home practice for the two exercise groups. Changes in self-report and objectively measured cognitive function were compared between the three groups from baseline (T1) to completion of the intervention (T2) and 4 weeks post intervention (T3).


Fifty participants consented (83% of desired sample) with an overall attrition rate of 28%. Attrition was highest for the gentle exercise group (50%). Group attendance adherence ranged from 44 to 67%. The a priori established rate of 75% weekly attendance was not achieved, nor was the goal of 75% adherence to home practice for the two exercise groups (7 to 41%). Self-report of cognitive function improved most for the Qigong group (p = .01). Improvement was demonstrated for the Trail Making A (gentle exercise, p = .007) and F-A-S verbal fluency (support group, p = .02) tests. Qigong participants reported the most reduction of distress (p = .02).


The study results suggest that mindfulness-based exercise may be superior to gentle exercise alone or survivorship support for improving self-report of cognitive function and distress after treatment for breast cancer. The mindfulness component may enhance the positive impact of exercise on cognitive function.

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This research was funded by the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation through an unrestricted grant from the Sigma Theta Tau International Foundation. A portion of Dr. Myers’ time was supported by the National Institution of Nursing Research (NINR) T32: Interdisciplinary Training of Nurse Scientists in Cancer Survivorship while a postdoctoral scholar with the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.

Author information

Correspondence to Jamie S. Myers.

Ethics declarations

Approval from the University of Kansas Human Subjects Committee was obtained and all procedures were performed in accordance with institutional ethical standards and the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no financial relationship with the organization that funded the research (the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation through an unrestricted grant from Sigma Theta Tau International Foundation). The first author and the primary investigator for the study have full control of all primary data. However, data sharing agreement execution would be necessary if the journal requests data review.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Myers, J.S., Mitchell, M., Krigel, S. et al. Qigong intervention for breast cancer survivors with complaints of decreased cognitive function. Support Care Cancer 27, 1395–1403 (2019).

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  • Breast cancer
  • Cognitive function
  • Qigong
  • Mindfulness-based exercise
  • Intervention