Self-taught stress management techniques most effective in relieving stress of chemotherapy

July 08, 2002

Patients undergoing chemotherapy who utilize self-guided stress management techniques have significantly greater vitality, fewer emotional problems, better mental health, and fewer physical problems, according to a study conducted at the H Lee Moffitt Center and Research Institute. According to Paul Jacobsen, PhD, Program Leader of the Psychosocial and Palliative Care Program at Moffitt and leader of the study, these patients did better than patients offered only the usual psychosocial support, consisting of visits with a social worker. More surprisingly, the self-taught patients also did better than patients trained in stress management by professionals.

Although patients undergoing chemotherapy experience fewer side effects than in the past, nausea and fatigue can be debilitating in many patients, as can the emotional distress that accompanies coping with cancer . A number of studies have shown that psychosocial interventions incorporating stress-management techniques can relieve emotional distress and nausea both prior to and following chemotherapy. The Moffitt study, comparing how such techniques are learned, concluded that a self-guided approach produces the best results.

In this study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 382 patients diagnosed with cancer but not yet undergoing chemotherapy were evaluated by an oncology social worker. The social worker determined the patient's need for psychosocial services, evaluated how well the patient understood their medical condition, screened for the presence of possible mental health disorders, and gave the patient information about support services present at the cancer center and in the community--all the usual care normally offered to a newly-diagnosed patient. In addition, some patients also received intensive individual training with a clinician in stress management techniques shown to be effective in improving mental and physical well-being in patients undergoing chemotherapy. These stress management techniques included progressive muscle relaxation training with guided imagery, systematic desensitization, and biofeedback. An audiotape was made of the training session for patients to use when practicing these techniques on their own.

Still another group of patients, after receiving the initial evaluation with the oncology social worker, underwent brief instruction in stress management techniques with a clinician, but were also given a 12-page instruction booklet entitled "Coping with Chemotherapy," and an accompanying videotape for use at home. The instructional materials were developed at Moffitt in conjunction with Cathy Meade, PhD, RN, who collaborated with Jacobsen in this study. The booklet and instructional video covered the same topics described by the clinician in the group of patients receiving intensive professional training in stress management techniques.

Jacobsen found that of the three groups, the self-guided patients using the instructional booklet and video showed the most improvement in their quality of life, even though they did not receive formal training by a clinician. In contrast, those who did undergo intensive training with a clinician faired no better than those receiving standard care. Both sets of patients using stress-management techniques--those receiving professionally-administered training and self-guided patients using the booklet and tape-- had similar expectations regarding the success of therapy and used the techniques with the same frequency.

According to Jacobsen, the patients receiving the booklet and tape may have felt more empowered because they could review and utilize the techniques at their own pace. Alternatively, patients who received professionally-administered training may have felt less comfortable with the techniques, and were less skilled when employing them.

Jacobsen also points out that it cost two-thirds less to implement stress-management training in the self-guided patients, despite the cost of the booklet and videotape. Jacobsen hopes that Moffitt will make these materials available to all patients, and eventually offering them to other cancer centers around the country.
This study was funded by research grants from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to