Younger women are at risk for depression and related symptoms following breast cancer. The Pathways to Wellness study, a randomized, multi-institution, three-arm trial, tested the efficacy of two behavioral interventions for younger breast cancer survivors with elevated depressive symptoms: mindful awareness practices (MAPs) and survivorship education (SE) ( identifier: NCT03025139).
Women diagnosed with breast cancer at or before 50 years of age who had completed treatment and had elevated depressive symptoms were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of MAPs, SE, or wait-list control (WLC). Assessments were conducted preintervention and postintervention and at 3-month and 6-month postintervention follow-ups. Analyses compared each intervention to WLC using linear mixed models. The primary outcome was change in depressive symptoms from preintervention to postintervention on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale; secondary outcomes included change in fatigue, insomnia, and vasomotor symptoms.
Two hundred forty-seven women (median age = 46 years) were randomly assigned to MAPs (n = 85), SE (n = 81), or WLC (n = 81). MAPs and SE led to significant decreases in depressive symptoms from preintervention to postintervention relative to WLC (mean change relative to WLC [95% CI]: MAPs, -4.7 [-7.5 to -1.9]; SE, -4.0 [-6.9 to -1.1]), which persisted at 6-month follow-up for MAPs (mean change relative to WLC [95% CI]: MAPs, -3.7 [-6.6 to -0.8]; SE, -2.8 [-5.9 to 0.2]). MAPs, but not SE, also had beneficial effects on fatigue, insomnia, and vasomotor symptoms that persisted at 6-month follow-up ( < .05).
Mindfulness meditation and SE reduced depressive symptoms in younger breast cancer survivors. These interventions can be widely disseminated over virtual platforms and have significant potential benefit for quality of life and overall survivorship in this vulnerable group.