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'Journaling' Might Ease Depression in Testicular Cancer Patients

MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Keeping a daily journal with a positive slant may ease the effects of psychological trauma and depression among men with testicular cancer, according to a small new pilot study.

Researchers from Baylor University noted that men who wrote negatively about their condition, or simply chronicled unrelated topics, did not experience the same benefit. The findings, the investigators concluded, could help treat men with the disease seeking mental and emotional therapy.

"We think writing about the experience could add to the therapy and can help with recovery and quality-of-life issues after treatment, as the men try to get on with their lives," Dr. Mark T. Morman, a professor of communication studies and graduate program director at Baylor University, said in a university news release.

In the study, published in the current issue of Healthymagination, researchers divided 48 men with testicular cancer into three groups: those assigned to write positively about their cancer experience; those asked to write negatively; and those who were told to write neutrally about various unrelated topics.

The researchers asked the men questions about their well-being and sexual health, as well as their assertiveness and responsiveness in order to determine the effect their writing had on their mental health.

The study found that men who kept a positive journal about their experiences reported improvements in their mental health as a result of their writing. Those who wrote negatively or neutrally on their experiences did not. (The names were not attached to the journals, so the participants could write with complete privacy.)

Previous studies also revealed that men with testicular cancer are more likely to be depressed or anxious. They may also face side effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment that can temporarily interfere with sexual performance and fertility.

"There are issues of masculinity, sexuality, relationships and self-image that often have significant effects on a survivor's ability to cope and move forward," said Morman, who is also a former communication consultant for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The study authors concluded that keeping a daily journal with positive thoughts can help men with testicular cancer overcome these issues.

"We want to get the message to doctors and therapists that our preliminary data indicates this worked and can help alleviate a lot of concerns about embarrassment, body image and masculinity," said Morman.

The research should be considered preliminary until it is replicated in a larger study and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about testicular cancer.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Baylor University, news release, Sept. 15, 2011

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