Grant R21CA129201

Biobehavioral Effects of Qigong During Treatment for Rectal Cancer

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Cancer and its treatment are associated with considerable distress, impaired quality of life, poor mental health, and reduced physical function. This is particularly true for patients with rectal cancer who receive multimodal treatment over an extended period of time. Most patients will undergo radiotherapy, followed by surgery and often chemotherapy. It is important to develop programs that can help ameliorate the treatment-related morbidity that accumulates over time for patients with rectal cancer. Furthermore, given the stressful time demands of undergoing radiotherapy (patients typically receive treatment 5 days per week for 6 weeks) it is crucial that programs be easily incorporated into the treatment schedule. Research suggests that stress- reduction programs tailored to the cancer setting help patients cope with the acute effects of treatment and improve QOL after treatment. Qigong, an ancient practice for manipulating one's own Qi (energy flow) to benefit one's physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health incorporates stress-reduction techniques including regulated breathing, visual imagery, meditation, and various gentle movements. Qigong may be particularly useful for patients with rectal cancer while undergoing radiation treatment and prior to surgery and chemotherapy because of the stress management and relaxation techniques and the gentle movements that should facilitate recovery. In this feasibility/pilot project, we will pilot-test and examine the feasibility and usefulness of conducting a Qigong program with rectal cancer patients as an adjuvant to their radiotherapy treatment. Rectal cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment will be randomly assigned Patients with rectal cancer who are undergoing chemo-radiotherapy will be randomly assigned to either a Qigong group (QI), or a light exercise control group (LE), or a waitlist control group (WL). Participants in the QI and LE groups will attend sessions 3 days/week throughout their 6-week radiotherapy schedule. The sessions will be coordinated with the treatment schedule and conducted adjacent to the treatment facility. Measures will be obtained prior to randomization, a brief assessment in the middle of radiotherapy, during last week of radiotherapy, and 1 and 3 months after the end of radiotherapy. In addition to determining the acceptability and feasibility of the program, this study will also examine the effects of the Qigong program on fatigue and sleep disturbances. Secondary indices of adjustment include QOL and mental health. We hypothesize that the Qigong program will be feasible and that patients will find the program acceptable and a positive experience. Integrating a Qigong program into the treatment regimen for patients undergoing radiotherapy will make it relatively easy to participate in the program and we hypothesize that such a program will help facilitate recovery and alleviate the psychological and physiological side effects experienced by patients who are currently undergoing radiotherapy. Public Health Relevance Paragraph: The proposed study will examine the feasibility and initial usefulness of incorporating a Qigong program alongside radiotherapy for patients with rectal cancer. If we find that the Qigong program facilitates recovery and alleviates the psychological and physiological side effects experienced by patients undergoing radiotherapy then this type of program can be incorporated into the treatment plan. As the proposed trial is a feasibility/pilot project a larger trial would need to be conducted and possibly include other cancer populations undergoing radiotherapy.