Lower Stress and Improve Mood with Cancer with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Through Mindfulness, you can embrace that staying positive in the face of cancer includes recognizing and validating all the feelings you are experiencing, negative ones included.” – Richard Dicken


Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly improving. It is estimated that 15 million adults and children with a history of cancer are alive in the United States today. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. “Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions.” National Cancer Survivors Day. Unfortunately, most of these residual problems go untreated. Psychologically, cancer survivors frequently suffer from anxiety, depression, mood disturbance, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sleep disturbance, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, loss of personal control, impaired quality of life, and psychiatric symptoms which have been found to persist even ten years after remission.


So, coping with the emotions and stress of cancer is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of surviving cancer. Mindfulness training, however, may be helpful. It has been shown to improve recovery from cancer and to reduce anxiety and depression in people with a wide variety of conditions. One form of mindfulness training, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was specifically designed to help people cope with stress and emotions. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Cancer Care: A Systematic Review.” See:


or see summary below: Rush and Sharma reviewed the published research literature on the effectiveness of MBSR for the treatment of stress and negative mood in cancer patients (13 articles). They found that the majority of studies indicate that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is significantly effective in improving mood and reducing stress in cancer patients.


Hence, the published research literature indicates that MBSR is a safe and effective treatment for the psychological issues consequent upon cancer diagnosis and treatment. MBSR contains a number of components including meditation, yoga, and body scan. The literature does not isolate which components or which combination of components are necessary for MBSR’s effectiveness. The literature also does not identify what changes produced by this practice underlie its reduction in stress responses and improves mood. But, it can be speculated that the focus on the present moment is crucial. Ruminations about the past and worries about the future can by themselves impair mood and increase stress in cancer patients. So, it is possible that the focus on present moment awareness in MBSR is the crucial process, allowing the patients to focus on their present problems without amplifying them through worry and rumination. These are important questions for future research.


MBSR reduces both the physiological and psychological responses to stress. Since stress can exacerbate all of the symptoms of cancer treatment and can reduce the body’s ability to cope with the disease, improvement in the stress response is extremely important to enduring and recovering from cancer and its treatment. In addition, a positive mood can help the individual relax and cope with the difficulties of cancer treatment. So, the reduction in stress and the improvement in mood produced by MBSR likely improves the prognosis for cancer patients and may lead to a greater likelihood of remission and even survival.


So, lower stress and improve mood with cancer with mindfulness.


“meditation can help to relieve particular symptoms and improve quality of life for people with cancer. Research has shown that it can improve your mood, improve your ability to concentrate, reduce severe depression and anxiety, and boost the immune system.” – Cancer Research UK
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Rush SE, Sharma M. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Cancer Care: A Systematic Review. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016 Aug 3. pii: 2156587216661467. [Epub ahead of print]



Cancer is acknowledged as a source of stress for many individuals, often leading to suffering, which can be long-lasting. Mindfulness-based stress reduction offers an effective way of reducing stress among cancer patients by combining mindfulness meditation and yoga in an 8-week training program. The purpose of this study was to inspect studies from October 2009 to November 2015 and examine whether mindfulness-based stress reduction can be utilized as a viable method for managing stress among cancer patients. A systematic search from Medline, CINAHL, and Alt HealthWatch databases was conducted for quantitative articles involving mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions targeting cancer patients. A total of 13 articles met the inclusion criteria. Of these 13 studies, 9 demonstrated positive changes in either psychological or physiological outcomes related to anxiety and/or stress, with 4 describing mixed results. Despite the limitations, mindfulness-based stress reduction appears to be promising for stress management among cancer patients.


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