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Meditation + Yoga Group Outperforms Therapy for Distressed Cancer Survivors

02 Apr

Researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, compared the effectiveness of two different interventions for distressed survivors of breast cancer – group mindfulness meditation training with yoga vs. supportive-expressive group therapy.

This multisite, randomized controlled trial assigned 271 distressed survivors of stage I to III breast cancer to either a Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery group (MBCR), a Supportive-Expressive Therapy Group (SET), or a 1-day stress management control condition.

MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga, whereas SET focused on emotional expression and group support. Both intervention groups included 18 hours of professional contact.

Measures were collected at baseline and after the intervention by assessors who were blind to the study condition. Primary outcome measures were mood and diurnal salivary cortisol slopes. Secondary outcomes were stress symptoms, quality of life, and social support.

Using linear mixed-effects models, in intent-to-treat analyses, cortisol slopes were maintained over time in both SET (P = .002) and MBCR (P = .011) groups relative to the control group, whose cortisol slopes became flatter.

Women in MBCR improved more over time on stress symptoms compared with women in both the SET (P = .009) and control (P = .024) groups. Per-protocol analyses showed greater improvements in the MBCR group in quality of life compared with the control group (P = .005) and in social support compared with the SET group (P = .012).

This study, the largest trial to date, concludes that MBCR was superior for improving a range of psychological outcomes for distressed survivors of breast cancer. Both the SET and MBCR also resulted in more normative diurnal cortisol profiles than the control condition.

Citation: Linda E. Carlson, Richard Doll, Joanne Stephen, Peter Faris, Rie Tamagawa, Elaine Drysdale and Michael Speca. Randomized controlled trial of Mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy for distressed survivors of breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2013 Sep 1;31 (25): pp. 3119-26. 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.