Stress-Relief Program Helped Those Facing Breast Cancer Twice

TUESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- A stress-relieving program may boost survival in women with recurrent breast cancer and also improve their quality of life, a new study suggests.

Patients who took part in the program had "significant emotional improvement and more favorable immune responses in the year following recurrence diagnosis," study author Barbara L. Andersen, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

The researchers followed 227 women who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in stage 2 or stage 3. The participants were randomly assigned to either take part in an intervention program designed to reduce stress and improve overall health, or to just be assessed without participating in the intervention.

Breast cancer recurred in 62 of the women during the follow-up period. Compared with the non-intervention group, those who had taken part in the anti-stress program were 59% less likely to die of breast cancer, according to the report released online June 8 in Clinical Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Anderson said the findings "show enduring benefits from the psychological intervention that were never previously considered or observed."

A previous study showed that women who took part in the program were 45% less likely to experience breast cancer recurrence over a follow-up period that averaged 11 years.

"These results are extremely heartening, because it shows that a psychological intervention can have long-term positive effects," Sarah Gehlert, professor of racial and ethnic diversity at Washington University in St. Louis, explained in the news release. Gehlert was not involved in the study but is familiar with the findings.

-- Randy Dotinga

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SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, June 8, 2010