Recently, doctors at the University of Miami published their research on the absolute significance of stress management for breast cancer patients.
- Stress among postsurgical breast cancer patients can affect biological processes that regulate the endocrine and immune systems and these influences can have long-term effects on disease outcomes.
- Chronically elevated cortisol (stress hormone) suppress the naturally occurring anti-inflammatories in the body (glucocorticoid receptors), as a result pro-inflammatory signals are released into the blood by small proteins – cytokines.
- Cytokines and their inflammatory messages can congregate near tumor cells.
- These cytokines may contribute to disease progression by promoting metastasis.
- Therefore stress-associated neuroendocrine changes may contribute to disease course in post-surgical breast cancer patients and increase risk or breast cancer recurrence and mortality.1
Earlier research from a combined Chinese and American team explored the positive aspects of stress management in breast cancer patients shedding another view on how stress management may prevent recurrence of breast cancer.
The researchers noted that after treatment completion, breast cancer survivors frequently experience residual symptoms of pain, fatigue, high levels of psychological stress, anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence, and metastasis.
“Post-treatment stress, in particular, can adversely affect health-related quality of life, which, in turn, induces onset or recurrence of chronic diseases. Effective interventions that target these psychological symptoms and their physiological consequences are needed”
One of the worst periods of stress, the researchers wrote, was when women completed main treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy) and they progress to and have to face the stage of “watchful waiting”, a stressful period when the physician seems to be “doing nothing”.
Therefore, survivors continue to report remaining physical symptoms of pain, fatigue, and sleep dysfunction, high levels of psychological stress, anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence and metastasis, and impaired quality of life. This the researchers report may even contribute to the recurrence or progression of the disease.2
In agreement with the research presented is a recent study shows that providing women with skills to manage stress early in their breast cancer treatment can improve their mood and quality of life many years later. Published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings suggest that women given the opportunity to learn stress management techniques during treatment may benefit well into survivorship.
In this study patients who learned relaxation techniques and new coping skills in a supportive group over 10 weeks experienced improved quality of life and less depressive symptoms during the first year of treatment.
In their latest report, the researchers found that the women who received the stress management intervention had persistently less depressive symptoms and better quality of life up to 15 years later.
In other research, University of Missouri researchers in the Sinclair School of Nursing say a meditation technique can help breast cancer survivors improve their emotional and physical well-being.
The researchers found found that breast cancer survivors’ health improved after they learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a type of mindfulness training that incorporates meditation, yoga and physical awareness.
Your partner makes a difference
In other research, doctors found that having good partner support may play a key role in a young woman’s adjustment to a serious stressor such as breast cancer. In addition, younger age increases vulnerability to anxiety as does struggling with finances.
Because supportive efforts of a partner have potential to protect against the impact of stress, interventions to enhance partner support and reduce anxiety might be beneficial to address challenges experienced as a couple in this setting.
1 Amiel CR, Fisher HM, Carver CS, Antoni MH. The importance of stress management among postresection breast cancer patients. Future Oncol. 2016 Dec;12(24):2771-2774. Epub 2016 Oct 19.
2 Huang J, Shi L. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for survivors of breast cancer: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2016;17:209. doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1335-z. 51316