Mind-Body Medicine Clinically Proven to Help Treat Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Survivors

September 30, 2023

Ashwin Mehta, MD

New $125M Memorial Cancer Institute designed with mindful spaces and a soothing environment to boost patients’ recovery and healing

A recent report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reveals that global cancer rates are on the rise, but there’s a silver lining. Survival rates are steadily improving. By 2040, it's estimated that approximately 26 million people in the United States will have surpassed the critical five-year milestone in their cancer journey.

However, the mental well-being of this growing community of cancer survivors is emerging as a prominent concern. To offer relief, a new set of national guidelines recommends that cancer patients use mind-body techniques to ease anxiety and depression during and after treatment as part of integrative medical approach to care.

One of the authors of this important article is Ashwin Mehta, MD, medical director of Memorial Healthcare System’s Integrative Medicine program who leads Memorial Cancer Institute’s Integrative Cancer Survivorship Program. He also formed part of the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) expert panel who created these clinical practice guidelines based on a summary of scientific research and clinical trials.

These experts encourage the use of mindfulness techniques and other integrative therapies to help adults dealing with cancer manage their feelings of anxiety and depression. Their detailed set of guidelines, which can be found in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, carefully describe how well techniques like yoga, relaxation exercises, hypnosis, acupuncture, and music therapy, work in reducing anxiety and depression during cancer treatment.

“Depression and anxiety often emerge when patients complete their treatment and begin to reflect on the trauma they've endured,” said Dr. Mehta. “Recognizing that not all patients prefer traditional medication for these symptoms, we’ve achieved remarkable success with mindfulness-based interventions and other integrative therapies in helping patients overcome these challenges.”

The guideline firmly champions mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), encompassing mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation, and mindful movement. These integrative interventions are thoughtfully recommended for patients in both active treatment and the post-treatment phase, owing to their well-documented benefits. Integrative medicine is a wellness model that applies the latest science in holistic approaches to optimize health.

Memorial’s team of experts is experienced in providing both preventive health plans and supportive care to patients who are being treated for various chronic illnesses, including cancer.

“Integrative medicine has played a pivotal role in the health and healing journey at Memorial Cancer Institute, offering support throughout and beyond treatment,” asserts Dr. Mehta. “The availability of the SIO-ASCO guideline to clinicians and individuals battling cancer is truly life-changing. As depression and anxiety often set in after cancer treatment concludes, we want patients to know that we are here to provide unwavering support.”

Memorial Cancer Institute, unwavering in its commitment to prioritize patient care and enhance healthcare services, is on the verge of completing a state-of-the-art $125 million facility. This visionary expansion will include a dedicated integrative medicine office suite and a serene sanctuary designed for yoga and meditation. The new location is slated to open its doors in November 2023.

Dr. Mehta, who assumed the role of medical director of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Healthcare System in October 2015, brings his expertise in nutrition, exercise, sleep, yoga, and mindfulness to the forefront. The integrative team, comprised of specialists in complementary techniques, continuously develops innovative, patient-centered wellness programs aimed at improving the quality of life throughout the patient's care journey.

The Integrative Medicine Division conducts "Next Step Orientation Sessions" introducing new Memorial Cancer Institute patients to the array of supportive care services available, including the Integrative Cancer Survivorship program, empowering patients with holistic and evidence-based techniques to maintain a cancer-free life post-treatment.