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Mindfulness-based interventions ease distress in cancer patients, survivors

22 Sep 2019

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) effectively alleviate psychological distress among cancer patients and survivors, reports a recent meta-analysis.

Twenty-nine independent randomized controlled trials were deemed eligible for inclusion, yielding a cumulative sample of 3,274 participants (mean age, 55 years; 86 percent female). Only papers that employed MBIs with mindfulness as the main component were retrieved. Acceptable outcomes included at least one measure of distress, such as anxiety, depression and perceived stress.

MBIs had a statistically significant but small effect on psychological distress immediately after treatment (Hedges’ g, 0.32; p<0.001). The same was true for self-reported symptoms of anxiety (Hedges’ g, 0.36; p<0.001), depression (Hedges’ g, 0.38; p<0.001), fatigue (Hedges’ g, 0.51; p=0.001) and the fear of cancer recurrence (Hedges’ g, 0.29; p=0.001).

Age and the type of control group used appeared to be potential moderators, such that studies with younger participants and passive controls returned larger effect sizes for MBIs.

When assessed after a mean follow-up of 6.6 months, MBI continued to produce significant benefits in terms of psychological distress (Hedges’ g, 0.19; p=0.002), depressive symptoms (Hedges’ g, 0.20; p=0.04), sleep disturbance (Hedges’ g, 0.23; p=0.047), pain (Hedges’ g, 0.20; p=0.016) and anxiety (Hedges g, 0.36; p=0.001).

“MBIs may be relevant treatment options for cancer patients and survivors, although direct comparisons of MBIs with [cognitive behavioural therapy] are needed for this patient group,” said researchers. “This is an important area for future research.”

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