HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Does hula have the power to heal? That's what University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers are trying to determine and they've spent the last six months gathering data.
Doctors say they know exercise is good for both for cancer prevention and survivorship -- but getting folks to break a sweat isn't easy. They're hoping the cultural relevance and companionship of hula will change that.
"These are the kind of things to me that are cutting edge. They're wonderful. They're full of soul and I think they take us into a dimension of medicine that we don't know much about and we can add so much to survivorship," said Dr. Neal Palafox, the Hawai'i Cancer Coalition Chair.
A dozen ladies participated in the clinical trial. They're all breast cancer survivors who have been treated within the past five years. For the last six months, the women have been meeting twice a week to dance.
"It totally engages everything. It engages your mind, because I didn't dance before so I had to learn the language and your hands go
one way, your legs go another way, your body has to move another way -- so it's wonderful because it really brings you to life," said Carol Lum, who was diagnosed five years ago.
Researchers will study the blood samples they took along the way to determine if there were any biological changes.
"Aside from what we would consider the hard data, there's the qualitative piece where it seems like they're getting a lot out of it because they are. Their mood is just so different and you can see that -- just how much more excited they are than they were when they started this study," explained Dr. Erin Bantum, one of the lead investigators in the study and an assistant professor UH Cancer Center.
The ladies are enjoying hula so much, they're still dancing -- even though the study has wrapped.
"It's not just the cancer that brings us together. It's like cancer is the given but we're there for the hula. I love it. It just makes me really happy," described Sheila Forman, who was diagnosed two years ago.
Researchers are interested to see if that improved mental health will translate into a reduced risk of the cancer returning.
"It's amazing. Hula just gives them some sort of happiness and joy and it's wonderful. It's just absolutely marvelous," said TeMoana Makolo, the hula teacher who is a breast cancer survivor herself.
Study results should be available in three months.