Blue Cross Blue Shield funds yoga event for breast cancer patients

Bridget Janis, Features Editor

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation has partnered up with Oakland University to help fund Dr. Judith Fouladbakhsh’s research study surrounding pain management in breast cancer patients.

Her study, “The Effects of Yoga Therapy and Qigong on Self-Management of Pain Among Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer Survivors” was presented at an event on Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. This community-wide event highlighted the funders, the research team and also allowed attendees to experience free yoga and qigong.tai chi classes.

The event, which took place at the University Recreation and Well-Being center, helped to inform students and community members about the research being done.

“Breast cancer survivors, we have many of them, especially the ones with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, will go on treatments for five to 10 years after their surgeries with different medications, which can result in quite a bit of discomfort as far as joint pain, lack of sleep and mood changes, so we’re looking at if yoga therapy and qigong can help them,”  Fouladbakhsh said.

Fouladbakhsh has been doing pain research studies for the last 14 years, and with her background in public health nursing, she has been working on complementary and integrative approaches involving wellness and health promotion. By seeing the effects of breast cancer firsthand in her life, it sparked her interest in figuring out how to help with people’s pain.

“What prompted me to move on to the breast cancer patients is because people my age, women and friends have experienced breast cancer, my mother is a breast cancer survivor,” Fouladbakhsh said. “But I’ve also seen them encounter pain and joint swelling that happens during treatment and I would see how it affects their quality of life.”

Yoga has been gaining more research throughout the last decade and has shown to help improve depression, mood and sleep, especially among cancer patients. By using teachers from the Beaumont School of Yoga Therapy, the positive effects are at a high, and the risk of using this method is low.

“The healing properties of yoga extend so much further than just like the breathing and the meditative,” Jaqueline McIntosh, director of philanthropy, said. “That’s what Judi’s study is actually aiming to prove.”

By receiving a $70,000 grant, Fouladbakhsh can offer a series of 12 classes in yoga and qigong and also study a group that doesn’t receive much help. She is able to hire teachers to teach yoga and qigong and allow more research assistants to help in the process.

By using a random control trial, the data she hopes to collect through the process revolves around pain scores, stress levels and moods of  breast cancer survivors by analyzing saliva samples. She will also use sleep watches to measure their sleep quality.

“I’m very grateful to the foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan, for funding our study,” Fouladbakhsh said. “I’m very grateful to Oakland University for supporting my work here at the university, so we can do the research for it. It helps on many levels; we can see what the outcomes are, and we can do a very solid, well developed study and then we can also include students here at Oakland University.”

To contact Dr. Fouladbakhsh for more information on her research, call (248) 760-1158 or email [email protected]