Examination of Broad Symptom Improvement Resulting From Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial (Lengacher et al., 2016)
One study estimates that there are almost 6 million breast cancer survivors in America alone. While breast cancer survivor rates are increasing, the focus turns to improving the quality of life (QOL) for these survivors. Breast cancer survivors can experience a number of psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and fear of reoccurrence, along with physical symptoms like pain and fatigue. Researchers are exploring mindfulness-based interventions as a long-term treatment options to address the multitude of symptoms after the cancer has been treated.
In this study, researchers investigated the efficacy of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Breast Cancer (MBSR(BC)) intervention for improving the psychological and physical symptoms and quality of life among breast cancer survivors who completed treatment. In this randomized control trial, 322 breast cancer survivors were randomized into a MBSR(BC) group or a usual care group and were assessed at baseline, 6 weeks (following the intervention) and 12 weeks for symptoms related to breast cancer, including fear of recurrence, fatigue and quality of life to name a few.
Participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Breast Cancer group experienced significant improvements in psychological and physical symptoms, with largest overall effect sizes for fear of recurrence and fatigue severity. Those participants who reported the highest levels of stress at baseline demonstrated the greatest benefit from participation in MBSR(BC).
This isn’t the first study to explore mindfulness as a treatment option for breast cancer survivors, but it expands the growing body of evidence that mindfulness can be a useful tool to self-regulate emotions of uncomfortable thoughts and somatic sensations. Mindfulness, as taught in the MBSR(BC) intervention, promotes acceptance and non-reactive awareness to the painful psychological and physical symptoms that breast cancer survivors routinely endure.
This study was novel in that MBSR(BC) demonstrated broad-spectrum benefits, which were observed immediately from baseline to 6 weeks post-study, and then sustained through a 12 week follow up. As researchers continue to explore mindfulness-based interventions for different clinical populations, the science will need to demonstrate that these interventions have lasting, sustainable outcomes.