Improve the Psychological Health of Cancer Patients with Mindfulness Taught over the Internet
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“some of the most difficult elements of the cancer experience are very well-suited to a mindfulness practice.” – Linda Carlson
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 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 relieve chronic pain. It can also help treat the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress, sleep disturbance, fear, and anxiety and depression. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient.
As an alternative, mindfulness training over the internet have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. In addition, research has indicated that mindfulness training online can be effective for improving the health and well-being of the participants. The research has been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effectiveness of mindfulness training over the internet in treating the psychological symptoms of cancer patients.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Programs for Patients With Cancer via eHealth and Mobile Health: Systematic Review and Synthesis of Quantitative Research.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7704284/ ) Matis and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the published research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness training over the internet in treating the psychological symptoms of cancer patients. They identified 24 published research studies including at least 4 weeks of mindfulness training delivered over the internet.
They report that the published research studies found that mindfulness training delivered over the internet to cancer patients produced significant decreases in stress, anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, and sleep problems, and significant increases in mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and some parameters of general health. In the few studies where long-term follow-up measures were obtained the effects were maintained.
These are very promising results that suggest that mindfulness training over the internet is a safe and effective treatment for the psychological issues common in cancer survivors. Mindfulness training, in general, has been shown in a large number of previous studies o be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, and sleep problems, and significant increases in mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and some parameters of general health. So, the present study simply extends these findings to patients with cancer who receive mindfulness training over the internet.
These results are important as good mental health, particularly the ability to cope with stress, are predictors of good health outcomes. In addition, the fact that the interventions were provided over the internet allows for cost-effective and convenient delivery to patients. This makes participation and compliance more likely and effective. Hence, internet-based mindfulness training may help relieve the psychological suffering of patients diagnosed with cancer and should be included in their treatment plan.
So, improve the psychological health of cancer patients with mindfulness taught over the internet.
“Both MBCT and eMBCT significantly reduced fear of cancer recurrence and rumination and increased mental health–related quality of life, mindfulness skills, and positive mental health.” – Matthew Stenger
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Matis, J., Svetlak, M., Slezackova, A., Svoboda, M., & Šumec, R. (2020). Mindfulness-Based Programs for Patients With Cancer via eHealth and Mobile Health: Systematic Review and Synthesis of Quantitative Research. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(11), e20709. https://doi.org/10.2196/20709
eHealth mindfulness-based programs (eMBPs) are on the rise in complex oncology and palliative care. However, we are still at the beginning of answering the questions of how effective eMBPs are and for whom, and what kinds of delivery modes are the most efficient.
This systematic review aims to examine the feasibility and efficacy of eMBPs in improving the mental health and well-being of patients with cancer, to describe intervention characteristics and delivery modes of these programs, and to summarize the results of the included studies in terms of moderators, mediators, and predictors of efficacy, adherence, and attrition.
In total, 4 databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Scopus, and Web of Knowledge) were searched using relevant search terms (eg, mindfulness, program, eHealth, neoplasm) and their variations. No restrictions were imposed on language or publication type. The results of the efficacy of eMBPs were synthesized through the summarizing effect estimates method.
A total of 29 published papers describing 24 original studies were included in this review. In general, the results indicate that eMBPs have the potential to reduce the levels of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, and pain, and improve the levels of mindfulness, posttraumatic growth, and some parameters of general health. The largest median of Cohen d effect sizes were observed in reducing anxiety and depression (within-subject: median −0.38, IQR −0.62 to −0.27; between-group: median −0.42, IQR −0.58 to −0.22) and facilitating posttraumatic growth (within-subject: median 0.42, IQR 0.35 to 0.48; between-group: median 0.32, IQR 0.22 to 0.39). The efficacy of eMBP may be comparable with that of parallel, face-to-face MBPs in some cases. All studies that evaluated the feasibility of eMBPs reported that they are feasible for patients with cancer. Potential moderators, mediators, and predictors of the efficacy, attrition, and adherence of eMBPs are discussed.
Although the effects of the reviewed studies were highly heterogeneous, the review provides evidence that eMBPs are an appropriate way for mindfulness practice to be delivered to patients with cancer. Thus far, existing eMBPs have mostly attempted to convert proven face-to-face mindfulness programs to the eHealth mode. They have not yet fully exploited the potential of eHealth technology.