Stress Reduction Aids Survival in Recurrent Breast Cancer

Study finds 59 percent reduced mortality risk in women who received psychological intervention
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with recurrent breast cancer who had psychological intervention for stress reduction during their initial disease deal better with the stress of disease recurrence and even improve their odds for survival over the long term, according to a study published online June 8 in Clinical Cancer Research.

Barbara L. Andersen, Ph.D., of The Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues followed-up on a 1994 trial in which 227 women with newly-diagnosed stage II or III breast cancer were randomized to receive a psychological assessment only or a psychological intervention to learn stress reduction techniques, improve their quality of life, better adhere to ongoing care, better communicate with health care providers, and improve their sense of well-being and overall health. After a mean 11 years, 62 of the 227 patients had recurrent disease. Of these, 41 patients available for further study (23 from the intervention group and 18 from the assessment-only group) were assessed for psychological, social, treatment adherence, and immune system status.

The researchers found that all of the women suffered psychological distress upon recurrence, but the intervention group subsequently improved more than the assessment-only group. Also, immune system indicators were significantly better for the intervention group, which had a 59 percent reduced risk of dying of breast cancer compared to the assessment-only group.

"The findings suggest that if psychological interventions are offered early, they may provide enduring, late benefits and possibly longer survival," the authors write.

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