Wayne, P.M., Lee, M.S., Novakowski, J., Osypiuk, K., Ligibel, J., Carlson, L.E., & Song, R. (2018). Tai chi and qigong for cancer-related symptoms and quality of life: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 12, 256–267.

DOI Link


PURPOSE: The goal of this study was to systematically review and synthesize the evidence for Tai Chi and Qigong interventions for supportive cancer care, specifically focusing on five clinical outcomes (fatigue, sleep difficulty, mood, pain, and quality of life), to identify the strengths and gaps in the evidence for theses interventions, and suggest directions for future research.

TYPE OF STUDY: Meta analysis and systematic review

Search Strategy

  • DATABASES USED: PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Embase
  • YEARS INCLUDED: From inception until January 30, 2017
  • INCLUSION CRITERIA: RCTs, prospective non-randomized controlled and prospective non-controlled studies, in English, with cancer as primary disease and Tai Chi and Qigong as the primary interventions. 
  • EXCLUSION CRITERIA: Review articles, other intervention, not cancer, outcome unrelated, other language, observational study.

Literature Evaluated

  • EVALUATION METHOD AND COMMENTS ON LITERATURE USED: Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool updated 2009; individual domains endorsed with low or high risk of bias; low risk of bias with at least 50% of criteria designates as low risk; high risk of bias when more than 50% of criteria endorsed with high bias or unclear.

Sample Characteristics

  • FINAL NUMBER OF STUDIES INCLUDED: 22 for qualitative analysis and 15 for quantitative analysis
  • KEY SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS: 10 studies included women with breast cancer only, 2 included men with prostate cancer only, 5 studies included mixed solid cancers, and single studies exclusively included patients with lung cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, nasopharyngeal cancer, and gastric cancer.

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications

  • PHASE OF CARE: Multiple phases of care
  • APPLICATIONS: Elder care


TCQ interventions varied in content, dosage, duration, and intensity. Of the 22 studies, Tai Chi was applied in 7 studies, Qigong in 10 studies, and Tai Chi and Qigong were explicitly combined in 4 studies. All results based on a random effects model due to statistical heterogeneity. Ten studies pooled for analysis revealed an overall effect size that indicated a beneficial effect of TCQ on fatigue in patients with cancer (Hedges g = − 0.53, 95% CI [−0.97, −0.28], p < 0.001). Six studies pooled for analysis revealed an overall effect size with a beneficial effect of TCQ on sleep difficulty in patients with cancer (Hedges g = − 0.49, 95% CI [−0.89, −0.09], p = 0.018). The overall effect size based on seven studies favored TCQ on depression in patients with cancer (Hedges g = −0.27, 95% CI [−0.44, −0.11], p = 0.001). Four pooled studies suggested that a statistically non-significant trend was in favor of TCQ on cancer-related pain (Hedges g = −0.38, 95% CI [−0.89, 0.12], p = 0.136). Quality of life was assessed with eleven studies and favored TCQ in patients with cancer (Hedges g = 0.33, 95% CI [0.1, 0.56], p = 0.004). Findings from non-RCTs paralleled meta-analysis results. Funnel plots suggest some degree of publication bias.


Findings support that TCQ may be effective in reducing multiple symptoms commonly experienced by cancer survivors. Statistically significant and clinically meaningful medium effect sizes in favor of TCQ were observed for symptoms of fatigue and sleep difficulty. Smaller but statistically significant effect sizes were also observed for QOL and depression, and a non-significant trend in favor of TCQ was observed for pain.


  • High heterogeneity
  • Low sample sizes

Nursing Implications

Tai chi and Qigong are mind-body interventions that show promise for reducing cancer-related symptoms, including fatigue, sleep problems, and depression as well as improving quality of life. Evidence from this review comes from a qualitative synthesis as well as a meta-analysis. The review included studies that included patients with different types of cancer.