Randomised controlled trials of yoga interventions for women with breast cancer: a systematic literature review



Yoga is increasingly used as a complementary therapy to manage disease and treatment-related side effects in patients with cancer and has resulted in an increase in the number of studies exploring the effectiveness of yoga interventions. This systematic review examines whether yoga interventions provide any measurable benefit, both physically and psychologically, for women with breast cancer. The results will inform future research in this field and advance the development of yoga programmes.


We performed electronic searches of MEDLINE, PsychINFO, the Cochrane Library, Embase, CINAHL, AMED, Web of Science and Scopus for articles published up to June 2012. Only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were included and methodological quality rating scores were determined using the PEDro (Physiotherapy Evidence Database) Scale.


One hundred thirty-two studies were identified through a systematic search of eight electronic databases. Only published manuscripts that employed a RCT design were included (n = 18). The sample sizes for these studies varied widely from 18 to 164 participants and the associated PEDro scores ranged from 1 (poor) to 8 (good). All 18 studies reported positive effects for treatment-related side effects in favour of the yoga interventions, with the greatest impact on global quality of life (QoL) scores and emotional well-being.


Results from the few RCTs suggest there is moderate to good evidence that yoga may be a useful practice for women recovering from breast cancer treatments. Large-scale RCTs using objective measures and patient-reported outcomes with long-term follow-up are needed to substantiate whether the benefits are true and sustainable.

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Conflict of interest

The authors of the review are employed by the University of Sussex and have no conflicts of interest to declare. The authors have full control of the source material for the review, which is available for review by the journal if required.

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Correspondence to V. Jenkins.

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Harder, H., Parlour, L. & Jenkins, V. Randomised controlled trials of yoga interventions for women with breast cancer: a systematic literature review. Support Care Cancer 20, 3055–3064 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-012-1611-8

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  • Breast cancer
  • Yoga
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • Quality of life