Stress Management May Have Long-Term Benefits For Cancer Survivors

Going through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can be one of the most stressful events that a woman ever has to face. Learning to cope with that stress can carry benefits not only in the early stages of recovery, but also years down the road, according to new research.

A University of Miami longitudinal study, which was published online this month in the journal CANCER, showed stress management interventions may reduce depressive symptoms and improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors for up to 15 years.

In 2000, the researchers recruited 240 women who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Half of the women attended a one-day breast cancer education seminar. The other half of the women participated in a 10-week cognitive behavioral stress management (CBSM) intervention, developed by University of Miami researchers. The stress management session included learning methods of relaxation, coping skills and cognitive behavioral techniques such as challenging self-defeating thoughts about life’s stressors.

During the first year of breast cancer treatment, the women who participated in the stress management program experienced better quality of life and fewer depressive symptoms than the women who participated in the educational seminar.

“These improvements in psychological status — less depressive symptoms, less negative mood and more positive mood — are associated with reductions in circulating serum cortisol levels, improved immune function and decreased inflammatory signaling over the first year of treatment,” Michael Antoni, a psychologist at the University of Miami who created the CBSM program, told The Huffington Post.

These effects were also observed in some women during a follow-up 15 years later, suggesting that programs to reduce stress during cancer treatment can have a long-lasting effect on psychological well-being. At the 15-year mark, the levels of depressive symptoms and overall well-being of these women were comparable —> Read More