Cancer patients' sense of well-being during treatment can improve if they're provided with help to deal with stress, fatigue, and other quality-of-life issues, a small new study suggests.
Researchers evaluated 113 patients with advanced cancer who were undergoing radiation treatment. Most of the patients were in their late 50s, and 63 percent were male.
Half of the patients were enrolled in a program to help them with their mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. The six 90-minute sessions in the program -- developed by cancer-care specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. -- included exercises to improve fatigue, discussions about coping strategies or spiritual concerns, and deep breathing to reduce stress.
The remaining patients kept to their standard routines and relied on their own therapists, counselors, or clergy to help them cope during their cancer treatment.
The patients in the standard-care group showed a decline in quality-of-life measures during cancer treatment, while those in the support program showed improvements, according to the study, which was published in the February issue of the journal Cancer.
"Much of the success may be that the program is active and engaged, and patients participated in the sessions as part of a group," study lead author and psychologist Matthew Clark said in a Mayo news release. "They received support and encouragement to go home and practice things like physical activity, spirituality, and relaxation."
The patients in the therapy program, however, did not have higher quality-of-life levels six months after cancer treatment.
"The intervention is helpful at a critical time, but doesn't have a lasting enhancing effect," Clark said. "Our hope is to develop strategies to help people maintain and then improve their quality of life throughout survivorship."