Patients with cancer who participate in virtual mind-body classes are less likely to be hospitalized and are hospitalized for shorter durations, researchers reported at the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology Quality Care Symposium. Their findings highlight the benefits of mind-body practices in reducing symptoms and improving mental health in patients with cancer.

Researchers randomized 200 participants with a variety of cancers and undergoing active treatment to participate one of two 12-week programs: Integrative Medicine at Home (IM@Home) involved the patient’s choice of a variety of virtual mind-body and fitness classes conducted live, and the enhanced usual care option (control) involved the standard of care and access to prerecorded meditation classes.

The researchers found that IM@Home participants were less likely to be hospitalized (5%) than those in the control group (14%) during the study period. On average, duration of hospitalizations in the intervention group (5.4 days) was also shorter than in the standard care group (9.4 days). Additionally, IM@home participants had fewer urgent care visits and reported reduced physical symptoms, including fatigue, depression, and anxiety.

“This trial demonstrates that a virtual mind-body fitness program can be delivered successfully in the cancer care setting,” the researchers concluded, and that the virtual classes reduced close contacts for immunocompromised patients but maintained some social interactions. They said that they are planning future studies to explore mind-body practices in patients with cancer and their effect on treatment adherence and outcomes.

ONS’s symptom interventions and guidelines recommend mind-body practices such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and yoga for anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Learn more about mind-body practices and other integrative therapies on the Oncology Nursing Podcast and ONS Voice.