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Psychotherapy for Breast Cancer Offers Multiple Benefits

A new study suggests psychological intervention for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients reduces patients’ depression and lowers blood markers indicative of inflammation.

Researchers from Ohio State University and James Cancer Hospital studied patients with stage II or III breast cancer. They found psychological therapy to reduce stress helped relieve symptoms of depression and reduced markers of inflammation.

Although researchers surmised psychotherapy would reduce depression symptoms, the additional benefit of lowering markers indicative of depression was an added bonus.

“Previously, we knew that inflammation was associated with depression-like symptoms among cancer patients, and that both are problematic, but we did not know whether treating depression would affect inflammation,” says co-author Barbara L. Andersen, professor of psychology and an OSUCCC-James researcher.

“Inflammation is considered to be a cancer-promoting factor, and both depression and inflammation predict increased risk of cancer death.”

Patients in the control group received only health and psychological assessments of their condition over the 12-month study period and showed no improvement in depression or inflammation indicators.

The findings are published online in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

“This study shows that by helping breast cancer patients with depression, they will also experience less inflammation,” says study leader Dr. William E. Carson, III, professor in the division of surgical oncology and associate director for clinical research at the OSUCCC-James.

First author Lisa Thornton, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of psychology, noted that 25 to 30 percent of cancer patients experience significant symptoms of depression.

“Our findings underscore the importance of including psychological interventions in the comprehensive care of cancer patients who experience significant distress,” Thornton says.

The study’s patients were participating in a larger clinical trial testing the effects of the same intervention on disease endpoints. Previously published findings showed that the intervention reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death.

This followup study examined records from 45 patients who entered the trial with clinically significant symptoms of depression.

Twenty-three of the patients had been randomized to receive the psychological intervention plus the assessment. The remaining 22 patients received only the assessment, which consisted of a personal interview and questionnaires that evaluated mood, fatigue, health status and the influence of pain on quality of life.

Blood samples were taken to assess inflammation levels, which were determined using counts of overall white blood cells and neutrophils, and the ratio of two categories of immune cells.

All patients were assessed upon starting the trial, then at four, eight and 12 months.

For the intervention, groups of eight to 12 patients and two psychologists met weekly for four months and monthly for eight months.

By the study’s end, patients receiving the intervention showed significant declines in symptoms of depression, fatigue, and pain and in the markers of inflammation.

“Significant anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms are usually not recognized and might even be trivialized as a ‘normal’ response to cancer. However, those with clinical depression need treatment, as symptoms may not remit or even when they do, it can take months,” Andersen says.

Source: Ohio State University Medical Center

Psychotherapy for Breast Cancer Offers Multiple Benefits

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Psychotherapy for Breast Cancer Offers Multiple Benefits. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/09/01/psychotherapy-for-breast-cancer-offers-multiple-benefits/8093.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.