Breast cancer survival improves with psychological support

December 2, 2008

Breast cancer patients have a better chance of survival if they are given psychological support in the form of group sessions with a psychologist, according to a report published online Nov. 17 in Cancer.

Breast cancer patients have a better chance of survival if they are given psychological support in the form of group sessions with a psychologist, according to a report published online Nov. 17 in Cancer.

Barbara L. Andersen, PhD, of Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues conducted a study of 227 patients who had undergone surgery for regional breast cancer. At baseline, the subjects were given a psychological and behavioral evaluation and were then randomized to either assessment alone or assessment and sessions of psychologist-led small group therapy that included strategies to maintain treatment adherence, reduce stress, and change health behaviors.

During a median 11 years of follow-up, 62 of 212 women (29%) had a recurrence of breast cancer and 54 of 227 (24%) died, the researchers report. Patients who were in the assessment-only arm had a higher risk of both breast cancer recurrence and death compared to those in the intervention arm, the investigators found. The intervention group also had a lower risk of all-cause death, the data revealed.

“If efficacious psychologic interventions to reduce stress are delivered early, they will improve mental health, health and treatment-relevant behaviors, and potentially, biologic outcomes,” the authors write. “If so, there is the possibility for improved survivorship and survival for cancer patients.”

Andersen BL, Yang HC, Farrar WB, et al. Psychologic intervention improves survival for breast cancer patients: randomized clinical trial. Cancer. 2008;17:3450-3458. DOC; 10.1002/cncr.23969.