Christina Devereaux Ph.D, BC-DMT

Meaning In Motion

Dance: A Tool to Empower Breast Cancer Survivors

Moving towards an improved quality of life

Posted Nov 08, 2013

Media stories all over the country are reporting on the unique preparation that Deborah Cohan did in the operating room prior to her bilateral mastectomy procedure.  Before the surgery, she orchestrated a dance party with her operating team to Beyonce’s hit “Get Me Bodied,” at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center at Mount Zion. Her goal, to inspire others to create a healing montage video where others dance to the song, wherever they are, to encourage people to “dance, move, and be in their bodies.”

Nothing makes my heart sing more then to watch people inspiring others to move together and experience the joy and power of expressive dance.  However, this project may not only encourage others to show their support through community movement, but also, may bring attention to the inclusion of creative approachs in healthcare that can have powerful results. Some creative interventions that have been incorporated into healthcare settings have been shown to shorten hospital stays and reduce a patient’s need for pain medication (Ulrich, Lunden, & Eltinge, 1993).  In a study published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy by Sandy Dibbell-Hope, women with breast cancer (stages I and II) met for 6 weeks in weekly 3 hour sessions exploring the use of Authentic Movement (a form of dance/movement therapy) on their psychological adaption.  Her study concluded that engaging in such groups “can provide…unique opportunities for restoring an internal sense of strength, control, and trust in the ability to return to the body as the site of the wound to find the source of healing.”  Also, results of Sandel’s 2005, randomly controlled study of 35 women breast cancer survivors showed that those who received the dance/movement therapy intervention “substantially improved a breast cancer-specific quality-of-life measure.”   

While Cohan’s planned operating room boogie was not exactly dance/movement therapy, it most certainly was an example of the use of expressive dance for therapeutic purposes. According to media reports, Cohan has been released from the hospital post surgery. I look forward to seeing how her vision plays out as her video continues to empower others to be in their body. Dance in itself continues to be associated with improvement in psychological condition and alongside a trained professional, dance/movement therapy can assist in addressing both emotional well-being and body image especially with breast cancer survivors.

More power to you, Deborah Cohan!

For more information about dance/movement therapy visit American Dance Therapy Association

© Christina Devereaux, PhD, LCAT, LMHC, BC-DMT