A recently completed study at Ohio State University suggests that group psychotherapy and psychoeducation can increase breast cancer survival rates in women by helping them develop better coping skills.
Barbara Anderson’s research team studied 227 women, about half of whom participated in four months of weekly, eight- to 10-member group therapy sessions and eight months of monthly meetings with the same people. All subjects were diagnosed with Stage 2 or 3 cancer, meaning their illness was fairly advanced. The therapy was provided after breast surgery but before chemotherapy or radiation had begun.
After 11 years, women who received therapy had reduced their chance of dying by more than half, and their chances of relapse by almost that much. When the infrequent attendees were excluded, the remainder had a 68% reduced risk of breast cancer death.
Among patients who died of breast cancer, those who participated in groups lived an average of 1.3 years longer than those who were simply assessed.
The findings should be taken with a grain of salt, as past studies have been contradictory. Michael Stefanek of the American Cancer Society said, “Psychological interventions have been found in the majority of well-controlled studies to enhance quality of life and reduce distress. It would not be reasonable for patients to participate in psychological interventions with the goal of extending survival.”
The study was published in the December 15, 2008 issue of the journal Cancer, and is part of the long-running Stress and Immunity Breast Cancer Project at Ohio State.
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