COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 5 (UPI) -- People usually dance for fun, but researchers in a small study found dancing could be as effective as physical therapy at improving balance and preventing falls in cancer patients.
Cancer patients treated with chemotherapy often experience neuropathy, which causes a loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet and toes. Patients who learned to do the Argentinian tango found the dance lessons easier to adhere to than traditional physical therapy while accomplishing the same goals, according to early data from Ohio State University researchers involved with the study.
Up to 70 percent of patients receiving chemotherapy experience some peripheral neuropathy, with 1 in 3 having it continue more than six months after conclusion of their cancer treatment.
Because neuropathy can affect balance and gait, it puts patients at greater risk for falls and injuries while completing normal daily tasks.
"That's a big deal because many more people are surviving cancer," Lisa Worthen-Chaudhari, a physical rehabilitation specialist and researcher at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, said in a press release. "Dealing with the issues that impact a person's quality of life after cancer is extremely important."
For the study, the final results of which are expected to be presented at annual meeting of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, taught the tango to 30 cancer survivors, finding it helped many of them.
The researchers measured patients' standing postural sway at the beginning and end of a twice-per-week 10-week course on the tango. Five weeks into the program, three participating patients have seen their medial and lateral sway decrease by 56 percent -- suggesting the concept could prove effective.
"So many patients tell us that it is difficult to stay committed to physical therapy because it is hard and feels like work," said Mimi Lamantia, a pre-med and dance major at Ohio State University and fellow with Pelotonia, which has been raising money for cancer research through biking events since 2007. "We've show that Argentine Tango has measurable effects on balance -- but our patients report really enjoying dance as therapy. It is a fun, social way to do the necessary work and our initial data shows it has some positive impact for restoring balance."