Breathing Exercises for Gynecological Cancer Patients

Mindfulness is a good but challenging practice. When you’re coping with cancer, it becomes an even bigger challenge because of all the exhausting treatments. Particularly with uncommon cancers— emerging in around 100,000 women in the US annually based on a Yale Medicine fact sheet— that form around female reproductive organs, it catches us off guard. How can you have peace of mind when you are suddenly diagnosed with cervical cancer? 

Are you going to breathe and live life normally without the fear of early symptoms creeping in? Breathing exercises and relaxation methods can help manage pain and alleviate weariness.

Gynecological Cancer Myths and Facts

In the culmination of Reproductive Health Month and the celebration of International Women’s Month, we’re reminded again of the strong women we aspire to be. As we break the bias, we also debunk myths about women-related cancers.

Myth: If you get HPV, you will develop cervical cancer.
Fact: HPV or Human papillomavirus is a common sexually transmitted infection linked frequently to at least the five major types of gynecologic cancers: cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers. Depending on how your immune system is built and boosted, HPV can be eliminated. 

Myth: Pap smear suffices for diagnosing all gynecologic cancers.
Fact: A routine screening test for cervical cancer, such as a Pap smear, does not work for all gynecologic cancers. It’s primarily and solely designed to test for cervical cancer. Consult your health care provider for diagnostic tests for other gynecologic cancer. 

Myth: Taking birth control pills raises the risks of suffering gynecologic cancers
Fact: Over-the-counter or pharmaceutically acquired pills are safe, but women respond to different contraceptives, so a physician’s guidance is advisable. However, in general, hormone-controlling contraceptives have been tested to minimize the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer with persistent use.

Myth: There are no early, detectable signs of ovarian cancer
Fact:  There are symptoms and early warning signs for ovarian cancer, although only about 20% of ovarian cancers are detected at an early stage. On a positive note, Northwestern Medicine says that early diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cancer boast a 93% survival rate. 

Myth: Having multiple sexual partners increase the probability of getting gynecologic cancers
Fact: Whether or not in an exclusive or open relationship, mostly everyone has the risk of getting cervical and other gynecologic cancers. Many factors contribute to increased cancer risk.

Naturopathic Medicine: Breather from radiation and fatigue

Breathing exercises fall under the system that utilizes natural remedies to assist the body’s healing process or naturopathy. It’s a century-old method of harnessing energy from life and nature. 

Yoga, an example of complementary medicine— a subcategory of naturopathic or alternative medicine— proved to be a practicable intervention among patients undergoing cancer treatment. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that Pranayama could help improve anxiety and depression, insomnia and quality of life.

Breathing exercises

Pursed lip breathing

After treadmill running, stair climbing, or mountain hiking, pursed-lip breathing calms down your breathing, especially if you’re panting or short of breath. This requires you to be intentional with each breath.

Incorporating this relaxation technique 4 to 5 times a day will have you master this breathing exercise in no time.

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  2. With your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for two counts.
  3. Purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.
  4. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.

Belly breathing

Belly or diaphragm breathing can help with bloating and tension. If you have 5 to 10 minutes to spare every other day, this will surely clear and relax your mind and body.

It may feel like a chore at first, but you’ll eventually grow to love it.

To do it:

  1. Rest on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow.
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand beneath your rib cage, allowing you to feel your diaphragm rise and fall.
  3. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand.
  4. Don’t move your other hand and keep it still.
  5. Exhale using pursed lips as you squeeze your abs, keeping your upper hand absolutely still.

Lion’s breath

Lion’s breath energizes you throughout the day, so it’s best to do this breathing pattern in the morning. This also helps with stiffness around the facial and chest muscles.

To do this:

  1. Come into a comfortable seated position, whatever that is for you. 
  2. Press your palms against your knees with your fingers spread wide.
  3. Deep breath through your nose and dilate your eyes.
  4. At the same time, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, bringing the tip down toward your chin.
  5. Contract the front throat muscles as you exhale using your mouth by releasing a long “ha” sound.
  6. You can move your eyes generously up or down.
  7. Do this technique 2 to 3 times.

The connection between the Respiratory and Reproductive System

Ever since grade school, we’ve been taught how our anatomy has interdependent systems to deliver according to their functions. The connection of your respiratory and reproductive system is evident in how you hold your pee when finding the restroom or delay orgasm to be more in tune with your partner in bed. 

Taking deep breaths to avoid wetting your pants and practicing meditation to listen to your sexual rhythm show how a person is capable of delayed gratification.

Why delayed gratification? As a gynecological patient, you know that sometimes it’s hard to gratify our needs because of extreme tiredness. You think how easy it is to throw in the towel rather than experience another chemotherapy session.

However, you feel more connected to the earth when you inhale and exhale. It keeps you grounded, but you also want to make each day count. Besides, having cancer is not the end of the road, as long as you fight.

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