Psychological Intervention Improves Breast Cancer Survival

Recent research has demonstrated that stress-related psychosocial factors may be associated with the risk of recurrence and death in patients with breast cancer. Evidence has supported the use of psychological intervention programs for these patients to help them manage stress, improve health, and function more effectively. Other evidence suggests that these programs can lead to better survival rates among disease sufferers. However, past studies haven’t been designed to specifically evaluate the effect of psychological interventions on recurrence and survival rates. In the December 15, 2008 issue of Cancer, my colleagues and I published a study designed to evaluate these endpoints in patients with breast cancer who received a psychological intervention. In our investigation, over 200 newly-diagnosed patients who were surgically treated for regional breast cancer were randomized to receive a psychological intervention and assessment or only an assessment. We hypothesized that stress accompanying a cancer diagnosis may trigger psychological, behavioral, and biologic responses that are relevant to subsequent disease outcomes. An assessment of immunity was also included in the trial in order to evaluate the effects of psychological interventions on it. Currently available research evaluating the correlation between stress and cancer has focused on suppressed immune responses. The physiological link between stress and its effect on natural killer cells, however, requires further research. The Psychological Intervention The intervention used for our study in Cancer consisted of small group sessions led by clinical psychologists who discussed strategies to reduce stress, improve mood, alter health behaviors, and maintain adherence to cancer treatment and care for patients surgically treated for regional breast cancer. Patients were first educated on how stress manifested in...