The technique, tested by Weill Cornell Medical College scientists, helps survivors cope with the threat of recurrence, a prospect that can lead to chronic and severe stress.
|Dr. Mary Charlson|
The researchers had successfully tested the intervention before on a largely Caucasian group of women. The new study demonstrates that the Indo Tibetan Buddhism-based method is widely accessible and beneficial.
“The intervention had a very large impact on post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms — one of the largest magnitude effects that’s been reported,” said Dr. Mary Charlson, the study’s lead author and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluative Science Research and executive director of the Center for Integrative Medicine.
The contemplative self-healing program, described in September in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, treated 42 women over 20 weeks.
In the first phase, psychologists taught the women meditation skills such as healing imagery and deep breathing, while in the second phase they learned tools to better understand and cope with a life-threating illness.
Scientists measured participants’ quality of life using the general Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Scale (FACT-G) and the Impact of Events Scale (IES), which specifically measure post-traumatic stress-related symptoms. Compared to before the program, the women’s scores increased significantly after they finished, and they expressed feeling relief, strength, and empowerment.
Breast cancer survivors aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this type of intervention, Dr. Charlson said; similar treatment could be developed for other conditions that lead to severe stress.
“This is a program that patients embrace, that they find extraordinarily helpful, and I think these are the kinds of things we need to do better in terms of integrating with advanced medical care — moving to really deal with the impact of disease on a person’s sense of self and life,” Dr. Charlson said.
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