A new study to be published in the December 15th issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, has already generated excitement. In a nutshell:
For 11 years, Dr. Barbara L. Andersen and colleagues at Ohio State University followed 227 breast cancer survivors from the time of diagnosis on. All the women were treated for regional cancer (i.e., not widespread metastatic cancer). Women were randomized to receive (1) routine medical care or (2) routine medical care plus "intervention" - namely, sessions with a professional who worked with them on improving mood, developing coping strategies and altering health behaviors.
The results? Women who were randomized to the intervention group had about half the risk of cancer recurrence. Of those whose cancer recurred, they had about six months longer of being disease-free before the recurrence. Most impressively, the women who received the intervention had less than half the risk of dying of their cancer and a lower death rate from any cause.
For many years, researchers have been looking at the role of psychological interventions in survivorship. A landmark study by Stanford psychiatrist Dr. David Spiegel in 1989 brought the issue into a limelight-of-controversy that has persisted to the present.
Nobody argues that skillful psychological interventions confer significant quality-of-life benefits, such as improved mood, better quality sleep and decreased pain. The big question is: Does such intervention lengthen lives in cancer survivors?
For the next few blog posts, let's talk about how the findings of this new study might affect Healthy Survivors. Your thoughts?