Therapy to ease stress, fatigue and other quality of life issues significantly improves patients' sense of well-being during cancer treatment, new Mayo Clinic research shows. Patients who kept to their standard routines showed a decline in quality-of-life measures, the study found. The findings are published this month in Cancer.
Mayo cancer care specialists created a six-session program to address cognitive, physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being. Each session includes 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.
For people with cancer, fighting the disease understandably takes highest priority. But other factors -- including stress, fatigue, pain, and spiritual uncertainty -- can severely diminish patients' quality of life during and after treatment, says the study's lead author, psychologist Matthew M. Clark, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology. Many studies have tested strategies to improve patients' experience, but most approaches have focused on only one quality of life issue at a time and typically after cancer treatment, he says.
In the randomized trial, researchers studied a group of 113 patients with advanced cancer; 63 percent were male, mostly in their late 50s. All were receiving radiation therapy at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. Family members caring for cancer patients also often experience a lower quality of life, and the study included them. While half of participants stayed with their usual psychosocial routine during treatment (for instance, seeing their own therapists, counselors or clergy), the other half attended the formal, 90-minute program three days a week.