Treatment isn’t the only key to successful recovery from cancer. New research by the Mayo Clinic suggests it’s equally important for cancer patients to successfully manage the stress that, by nature, accompanies a diagnosis and therapy.
The study, published this month in the journal Cancer, indicates easing stress, combatting fatigue, and addressing other quality-of-life issues greatly improve patients’ sense of well-being during cancer treatment and aids recovery.
Patients who follow standard routines, without taking steps to manage their stress, showed a decline in quality-of-life measures, the study found.
Lead researcher Matthew M. Clark, of the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, said treatment understandably is the highest priority for people with cancer. But other factors —including stress, fatigue, pain, and spiritual uncertainty — can severely diminish patients’ quality of life during and after treatment.
To address these issues, Mayo cancer care specialists created a six-session program involving physical therapy exercises to improve fatigue, discussions of topics such as developing coping strategies or addressing spiritual concerns, and deep breathing or guided imagery to reduce stress.
To test the program’s effectiveness, researchers tracked 113 patients undergoing radiation for advanced cancer — half of whom participated in the 90-minute sessions and half did not. The results showed that the program improved several quality-of-life measures for the cancer patients who took part in the sessions.
“Much of the success may be that the program is active and engaged, and patients participated in the sessions as part of a group. They received support and encouragement to go home and practice things like physical activity, spirituality and relaxation,” Clark said.
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