Psychological interventions associated with breast cancer survival

November 17, 2008,

A new study finds that breast cancer patients who participate in intervention sessions focusing on improving mood, coping effectively, and altering health behaviors live longer than patients who do not receive such psychological support. Published in the December 15, 2008 issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that reducing the stress that can accompany cancer diagnosis and treatment can have a significant impact on patients' survival.

Cancer patients undergo a significant amount of stress before, during, and after treatment. Many researchers have theorized that providing mental health services in addition to cancer care may improve patients' health and even prolong their survival. But studies linking psychotherapy to improved survival have had inconsistent results. To test the hypothesis, Dr. Barbara L. Andersen and colleagues at The Ohio State University conducted a randomized clinical trial with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients that tested whether receiving a psychological intervention could reduce the negative effects of stress and ultimately change the course of a patient's disease. Previous papers have shown that the intervention significantly improved psychological, behavioral, and health outcomes and enhanced immunity.

The investigators followed the 227 patients who had been treated for regional breast cancer for an average of 11 years, noting any cancer recurrences. Overall, they found that cancer recurred in 62 of 212 (29 percent) women for whom recurrence data was available; 54 of the total group of 227 (24 percent) died. Patients who were randomized to the intervention groups had about half (55 percent) the risk of recurrence compared to the control patients. The patients who did suffer a recurrence had been cancer-free an average of six months longer than the patients in the control group, a 45 percent reduced risk. The study also found patients receiving the intervention had less than half the risk (44 percent) of death from breast cancer compared to those who did not receive the intervention, and had a reduced risk of death from all causes, not just cancer.

The authors hypothesize that psychological interventions may impact immune changes that are secondary to stress hormones and that may promote cancer growth or metastasis, and that in addition to treating cancer patients with powerful antitumor medications, it is also important to treat psychological distress as well.

"If efficacious psychological interventions to reduce stress are delivered early, they will improve mental health, health and treatment-relevant behaviors, and potentially, biologic outcomes," the authors wrote. "If so, there is the possibility for improved survivorship and survival for cancer patients," they added.

Source: American Cancer Society

Explore further: Driven by ego? This book's for you

Related Stories

Driven by ego? This book's for you

January 17, 2018
Psychiatrist Mark Epstein '75 studied Buddhism alongside social relations as a Harvard undergrad, forging a path he would follow through Harvard Medical School and beyond. Based in New York, Epstein is the author of several ...

Smartphone app monitors cancer patients recovery

December 20, 2017
Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy can be remotely monitored using their smartphone sensors and an algorithm that detects worsening symptoms based on objective changes in patient behavior, according to a new study from ...

After the diagnosis: How cancer affects sexual functioning

December 20, 2017
A cancer diagnosis disrupts a person's life in many ways, including sexually. A study led by the University of Houston found that more than half of young cancer patients reported problems with sexual function, with the probability ...

Unmarried heart patients face higher risk of death

December 20, 2017
Compared to married heart disease patients, being unmarried was associated with a higher risk of dying, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart ...

Pancreatic cancer accelerated by stress, finds study

January 10, 2018
A new study shows that stress accelerates the development of pancreatic cancer by triggering the release of "fight-or-flight" hormones. Beta-blockers—commonly used medications that inhibit these hormones—were found to ...

Total-body PET: Maximizing sensitivity for clinical research and patient care

January 3, 2018
The new total-body PET/CT scanner could revolutionize our understanding and treatment of disease through analysis of better imaging data from the whole body. In The Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM) featured January article, ...

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.