Improve the Long-Term Mental Health of Breast Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness-based meditation can help ease the stress, anxiety, fear, and depression that often come along with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.” – Breast Cancer.org
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer. These symptoms markedly reduce the quality of life of the patients.
Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatigue, stress, sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. Although there is considerable research on the topic, there is very little on the long-term effectiveness of mindfulness training on Hispanic breast cancer survivors.
In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Effect of a Nonrandomized Psychosocial Mindfulness-Based Intervention in Hispanic/Latina Breast Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6971966/), Elimimian and colleagues recruited patients who had received a breast cancer diagnosis within the last 5 years. They provided them with a once a week for 2 hours, 8 week program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The program included meditation, body scan, yoga practices, and discussion along with daily home practice. They were measured before the program and every 3 months thereafter for 2 years for anxiety, depression, mental, emotional, and physical health, and physical and mental quality of life.
They found that after MBSR treatment and over the 2-year follow-up period that there were significant reductions in anxiety and depression, and significant improvements in mental quality of life. It should be noted that there wasn’t a control comparison condition present so the results must be interpreted with caution. But prior better controlled research studies have demonstrated that MBSR treatment is effective in improving symptoms in cancer survivors. So, it is likely that the present results were due to the effectiveness of the MBSR program and not to a confounding factor. The contribution of the present study is that it demonstrates that these mental health improvements also occur in Hispanic women.
So, improve the long-term mental health of breast cancer survivors with mindfulness.
“Results show promise for mindfulness-based interventions to treat common psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression in cancer survivors and to improve overall quality of life.” – Linda E. Carlson
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Elimimian, E., Elson, L., Bilani, N., Farrag, S. E., Dwivedi, A. K., Pasillas, R., & Nahleh, Z. A. (2020). Long-Term Effect of a Nonrandomized Psychosocial Mindfulness-Based Intervention in Hispanic/Latina Breast Cancer Survivors. Integrative cancer therapies, 19, 1534735419890682. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735419890682
Background: There is a paucity of research on the long-term impact of stress-reduction in Hispanic/Latina breast cancer (BC) survivors, a growing minority. In this article, we assess the long-term efficacy of an 8-week training program in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on quality of life (QoL) in Hispanic BC survivors. Methods: Hispanic BC survivors, within the first 5 years of diagnosis, stages I to III BC, were recruited. Participants were enrolled in bilingual, 8-week intensive group training in MBSR and were asked to practice a- home, daily. They were also provided with audio recordings and a book on mindfulness practices. Patient-reported outcomes for QoL and distress were evaluated at baseline, and every 3 months, for 24 months. Results: Thirty-three self-identified Hispanic women with BC completed the MBSR program and were followed at 24 months. Statistically significant reduction was noted for the Generalized Anxiety Disorder measure (mean change −2.39, P=0.04); and Patient Health Questionnaire (mean change −2.27, P=0.04), at 24 months, compared with baseline. Improvement was noted in the Short-Form 36 Health-related QoL Mental Component Summary with an increase of 4.07 (95% confidence interval = 0.48-7.66, P=0.03). However, there was no significant change in the Physical Component Summary. Conclusions: Hispanic BC survivors who participated in an 8-week MBSR–based survivorship program reported persistent benefits with reduced anxiety, depression, and improved mental health QoL over 24 months of follow-up. Stress reduction programs are beneficial and can be implemented as part of a comprehensive survivorship care in BC patients.