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Dance and Movement Therapy for Cancer Patients

Alternative therapies are great for many kinds of patients, including those struggling with cancer and going through difficult treatments. Mesothelioma patients and other cancer patients suffer from symptoms of the cancer itself as well as side effects from treatments like chemotherapy and surgery.

Dance or movement therapy can provide many benefits, including emotional and physical relief. Evidence shows this kind of therapy is useful and effective, although it is not a substitute for treatment. Also be sure to get your doctor’s approval before you try any new kind of therapy or physical activity.

What is Dance/Movement Therapy?

Called dance therapy, movement therapy, or dance and movement therapy, it is based on the connection between body and mind. Through the use of dance and specific movements therapists guide patients to improve their emotional, social, cognitive, and physical well-being. This sort of therapy is used in mental health treatment, in physical rehabilitation, in medical settings, in nursing homes, and in wellness practices.

A dance therapy session is typically tailored to an individual’s needs, although it may also be used in a group. The therapist works with a patient to achieve specific goals, such as improving self-esteem, increasing mobility, coping with physical pain, or changing behaviors. Movements and dance are used to express and identify emotions, to communicate, to improve the functioning of the body, and to cope with negative feelings and change behaviors.

Dance Therapy is Effective

Researchers studying dance and movement therapy have found it effective in several settings. For example, it has been proven to help people with depression improve their mood, and to help others reduce aggression and anger. It can reduce psychological distress in all types of mental health patients. For patients with Parkinson’s disease, dance therapy has helped improve balance. Patients with dementia improved their memory after participating in dance therapy. How dance and movement therapy causes these benefits is not certain, as most studies were small, but the results are clear and positive.

Cancer Patients Benefit from Dance and Movement Therapy

Research into dance therapy and its effectiveness has also shown many benefits for cancer patients using this as a supplement to medical treatment. For patients with breast cancer, for instance, using dance therapy improved overall quality of life. It also helped the patients see improvements in mobility in their shoulder joints.

This and other research has shown that there are important benefits when cancer patients do dance therapy led by a trained professional. It can help improve body image and self-esteem, make recovery easier and faster after surgery and other treatments, boost mood and reduce depression and anxiety, relieve physical pain, and increase mobility and flexibility. A group of cancer patients dancing and moving together can also make important friendships and social connections.

Dance Therapy is Physical Activity, Which Benefits Cancer Patients

Future research may reveal much more to dance and movement therapy than simply getting exercise, but at the very least it provides cancer patients with a way to move and get some physical activity in a way that is safe and therapeutic. Exercise is now recommended for all people undergoing cancer treatments if they can do it.

Exercise helps cancer patients the same way it helps anyone: it promotes healthy weight, improves cardiovascular function, strengthens muscles and bones, and improves overall body condition. For someone with mesothelioma or another type of cancer, these benefits can be extended to include reductions in fatigue, a greater ability to tolerate treatment, improved mood, greater mobility and less pain, and a healthy way to cope with the negative emotions that come from living with cancer: fear, anxiety, and stress.

Risks of Dance and Movement Therapy

Practicing dance and movement therapy is very low risk. However, if your physical condition does not allow you to move enough to engage in the therapy or if you work with someone who is not a trained professional, it can be dangerous. To minimize these risks, talk to your doctor before you try any new kind of therapy. Find out if there are any reasons you should not be trying dance therapy. If your doctor approves, make sure you find a therapist who is trained and licensed. Your medical team or medical center may have a dance therapist or may be able to recommend a qualified professional.

Besides checking with your doctor and finding a good professional therapist, it is important to remember that like any alternative therapy, this is not a replacement or substitute for your cancer treatments. Movement and dance can be powerful and may even help you heal, but you still need medical treatment for cancer. Use dance therapy as a beneficial supplement to your treatment and you may start to feel better, get stronger, and enjoy an overall better quality of life.

Page edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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