Results from a recent study published in the journal CANCER revealed that offering psychological interventions to reduce stress in women with breast cancer could be beneficial for their treatment outcomes, including survival, mood and quality of life.
The research team from the Department of Psychology, University of Miami (UM) College of Arts & Sciences, led by Michael Antoni, Ph.D., conducted a randomised interventional trial in a cohort of 240 women with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer. During the study, the team evaluated the efficacy of an intervention aimed to manage stress levels. The researchers observed that compared to women who attended a one-day educational seminar about breast cancer, women who learned specific relaxation methods and new coping strategies in a supportive group over a period of 10 weeks demonstrated significant improvements concerning their mood and quality of life during their first year of treatment.
This new study reports the outcome results of the trial and shows that those who received an intervention to reduce stress had a steady, improved quality of life and less depressive symptoms after 15 years of follow-up.
“Women with breast cancer who participated in the study initially used stress management techniques to cope with the challenges of primary treatment to lower distress. Because these stress management techniques also give women tools to cope with fears of recurrence and disease progression, the present results indicate that these skills can be used to reduce distress and depressed mood and optimize quality of life across the survivorship period as women get on with their lives,” said lead author Jamie Stagl, who is currently at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston in a recent news release.
According to the researchers, the results revealed that after the follow-up, women that received the intervention had levels of depressive symptoms and quality of life similar to women who never had breast cancer. The results also showed that the intervention was beneficial across women from different ethnic backgrounds.
The researchers believe that social workers and psychologists should intervene in early stages of the disease to achieve long-term psychosocial health outcomes. “Because depressive symptoms have been associated with neuroendocrine and inflammatory processes that may influence cancer progression, our ongoing work is examining the effects of stress management on depression and inflammatory biomarkers on the one hand, and disease recurrence and survival on the other,” concluded Dr. Antoni, who is also Director of UM’s Center for Psycho-Oncology Research.