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Imagery Reduces Stress When Chemo Is Done

08 Mar

Investigators from Mind Matters Research in Anchorage, Alaska summarized their Phase I National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded clinical trial with 34 breast cancer survivors, six weeks to one year post-treatment, who were recruited to participate in a 6-class, 8-week long imagery stress reduction program entitled "Envision the Rhythms of Life."

Patients practiced imagery during and between sessions. Outcomes for quality of life and cortisol rhythm were assessed pre- to post-intervention, in two subsets of survivors (intravenous [IV] chemotherapy, or no IV chemotherapy).

Thirty of the 34 survivors completed the 8-week program. Quality of life outcomes were measured with the cancer therapy-general (FACT-G) global index and yielded statistically and clinically significant results (p<.001) in quality of life related to physical, social/family, emotional, and functional well-being. Survivors also improved significantly on the breast cancer (p<.001) and spiritual subscales (p = .008.) 

The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) assessment also demonstrated significant improvement in the global index (p<.001), which included the categories of depression, somatization and anxiety.  At eight weeks, cortisol rhythm, a biochemical indicator of stress, produced a trend toward improvement for the fifth time point of the day (p = .18). Likert-based stress scales showed highly significant reductions in stress (p<.0001) with subjects practicing imagery the most producing the best scores.

Outcomes suggest the imagery program may significantly improve survivor quality of life and reduce stress.

Freeman L, Cohen L, Stewart M, White R, Link J, Palmer JL, Welton D.  Imagery intervention for recovering breast cancer patients: clinical trial of safety and efficacy. Journal of the Society of Integrative Oncology. 2008. Spring; 6 (2): pages 67-75. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award