Cancer Journey

Mental and Physical Wellbeing of Cancer Patients through Dance Therapy

Treating cancer involves much more than just radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, when necessary.

Cancer patients want to have and maintain a good quality of life when faced with diagnosis of cancer regardless of age or gender. Today, both hospitals and comprehensive cancer care centers are exploring the benefits of dance therapy as a form of alleviating the physical and emotional status of cancer patients.

Known as Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) in Australia and the USA, and Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) in the UK, an overall positive effect has been observed on the general mental and physical well-being in cancer patients. However, it must be stressed that DMT/DMP is not a replacement for the oncologist’s advice for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy after a cancer diagnosis.

How DMT/DMP helps

It is understood that DMT/DMP enhances the production of a neurotransmitter called endorphin which thereby increases the function of different systems in the body. This may be the basis for the positive changes that are seen in the emotions and attitudes of cancer patients, as well as enhancing their bodies’ immune systems.

Dance movements can include creative dance, interactive games, relaxation techniques, expressive movement, improvisation, and role-playing. These physical and mental activities lead to the therapeutic or psychotherapeutic effects. This beneficial effect on the overall quality of life keeps them fit and healthy both physically and mentally and removes the fear of isolation and cancer recurrence.

Most cancer patients tend to have low body image as a result of surgery, which can have a negative effect on the patient’s recovery and rehabilitation. DMT/DMP in turn can stimulate one’s self-esteem, improve expression; provide a sense of well-being by making a cancer patient laugh that automatically reduces mental tension and improves associated chronic body pain. These benefits have been observed in women who have undergone radical mastectomy surgeries with a one hour and 30 minutes session for 2-3 times in a week.

Group DMT/DMP

Other than the fact that group sessions can remove the feeling of isolation and strengthen self-confidence, DMT/DMP aids in improving communication skills and inspires cancer patients to maintain a dynamic relationship with healthcare workers, other cancer patients, and their own carers and families. They begin to freely express and control their feelings and learn to cope up with relationship skills. The groups may consist of the patients having the same type of cancer, or a mix of patients with cancers of other body organs.

Healing stages of DMT/DMP

Dance movements have a close interrelation between the mind and body. The correlation is done by using various dance steps or movements that involve mainly four stages, such as planning, maturation, enlightenment, and assessment.

  • Planning involves initial sessions with the therapist to understand the physical and mental status of the individual patient for daily The session can include some warm up exercises as well to understand the extent of possible movements.
  • Maturation occurs when relaxation and mindfulness through rhythmic movements is observed. Cancer patient is calmer and in better control of stress and anxiety experienced as a result of the diagnosis.
  • At the enlightenment phase, patients gain enough physical and mental strength to gather hope and put up a fight against the disease.
  • During assessment, the obvious benefits of therapy become apparent to the patients and the sessions may conclude with sharing of the entire experience that lasted for over 9-10 weeks