Improve Well-Being in Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It’s a mindset.” — Dave Pelzer
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 stress, sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. The research is accumulating. So it makes sense to summarize what has been learned.
In today’s Research News article “The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and cancer-related fatigue in oncology patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9282451/ ) Chayadi and colleagues review summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies of the effectiveness of mindfulness training (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), or Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) on the psychological well-being of cancer patients. They identified 36 published research studies including a total of 1650 cancer patients. Most of the studies employed MBSR.
They report that in comparison to baseline and to control conditions, mindfulness training produced significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and fatigue in the cancer patients. These improvements were present immediately after training and 3-months later. Hence, mindfulness training improved the physical and psychological well-being of cancer patients. This suggests that mindfulness training should be incorporated into the routine care of patients with cancer..
“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment — you just have to be willing to take it.” — Emily Hollenberg
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Chayadi E, Baes N, Kiropoulos L. The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and cancer-related fatigue in oncology patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2022 Jul 14;17(7):e0269519. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0269519. PMID: 35834503; PMCID: PMC9282451.
Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are increasingly being integrated into oncological treatment to mitigate psychological distress and promote emotional and physical well-being. This review aims to provide the most recent evaluation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) treatments, in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and CRF in oncology populations.
A search using the following search terms was conducted: (mindful* OR mindfulness* OR mindfulness-based* OR MBI* OR MBCT OR MBSR OR MBCR) AND (Oncol* OR cancer OR neoplasm OR lymphoma OR carcinoma OR sarcoma) to obtain relevant publications from five databases: PsycINFO, PubMed, Embase, and MEDLINE by EC, and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global from January 2000 to February 2022. 36 independent studies (n = 1677) were evaluated for their overall effect sizes (using random-effects models), subgroup analyses, and quality appraisals. Evaluations were performed separately for non-randomized (K = 20, n = 784) and randomized controlled trials (K = 16, n = 893).
The results showed that MBIs have significant medium effects in reducing symptoms of depression (Hedges’ g = 0.43), anxiety (Hedges’ g = 0.55) and CRF (Hedges’ g = 0.43), which were maintained at least three months post-intervention. MBIs were also superior in reducing symptoms of anxiety (Hedges’ g = 0.56), depression (Hedges’ g = 0.43), and CRF (Hedges’ g = 0.42) in oncology samples relative to control groups. The superiority of MBIs to control groups was also maintained at least three months post-intervention for anxiety and CRF symptoms, but not for depressive symptoms. The risk of bias of the included studies were low to moderate.
This review found that MBIs reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety and CRF in oncology populations.