In a study (published in June 2010, in Clinical Cancer Research), investigators update the results of a fascinating experiment in which 227 breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to two groups: group 1 (received psychological interventions such as relaxation training and advice on minimizing stress in 39 therapy hours, over 12 months), group 2 (received no psychological interventions). The patients have been followed for over 11 years since their initial enrollment. Patients were reassessed every four months during year one, every six months during years two to five, and annually thereafter.
The authors have previously reported that patients in the intervention group had a 45% reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, improvements in multiple immune function measurements, and improvements in various quality of life outcomes.
In my opinion, the current publication is perhaps the most compelling. The authors analyzed the patients who recurred in both groups, and found that those in the intervention group had a 59% reduced risk of death from breast cancer!!
The results of this important study suggest that a relatively short and inexpensive psychosocial stress reduction program may be effective in improving the survival of breast cancer patients. Many have hypothesized, including the authors, that the mechanism for this improvement in survival and reduction in recurrence is due to the positive effects of stress reduction on the immune system. This hypothesis is not accepted by all, and remains an area of controversy.
Most integrative oncologists believe that stress reduction is an important component of cancer care.