Who Would Have Thought This Could Be So Important?

A study published in the November 2015 online issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment shows that breast cancer patients who receive a specific type of stress-management training early in their treatment course have improved outcomes over a period of 11 years.

The randomized, controlled study examined the effect of a 10-week course of instruction in cognitive-behavioral stress management, or CBSM, on patients' overall survival and the amount of time they remained disease free. Although preliminary, the results are encouraging. According to Michael Antoni, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Psycho-Oncology Research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and co-author of the study, research indicates that psychological distress, depression and inflammation may aid in the progression of breast cancer. Further, cognitive-behavioral stress management has shown lower psychological distress and a decrease in inflammatory signaling in breast cancer cells. The study was designed to determine if these effects were linked to improved long-term outcomes, which they were.


Of the 240 women who participated in the study, those who received CBSM training had a significantly lower incidence of death from all causes, as well as a lower incidence of cancer-related deaths and a longer disease-free interval than those who did not. The authors warn, however, that the results need caution when interpreting, since more research is needed to determine if other factors, such as patient compliance with treatment regimens or physiologic changes, affected the results.

The cognitive behavioral stress management training provided to the subjects in Dr.Antoni's study included instruction in muscle relaxation and deep breathing techniques. Patients also learned ways to address negative thought patterns and cope more effectively with psychological distress. Dr. Antoni's team is currently examining whether a five-week training course in either stress management or cognitive coping skills can achieve similar results. They are also continuing their prior research to determine if the effects of CBSM on inflammatory markers continues to affect disease outcomes for a period of 15 years.

Although more research is needed to validate the results of the University of Miami study, there is still good reason to believe that teaching women with breast cancer stress management techniques may improve their survival over the long term. Do you have some stress management techniques you would like to share? Share your story and tell our readers your secret for coping with life's ups and downs.

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