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Psychological Counseling Boosts Breast Cancer Outcomes

Interventions cut risk of recurrence, lengthened disease-free survival, study finds

MONDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Psychological counseling may improve the chances of survival for breast cancer patients, a new study says.

Sessions that concentrate on mood improvement, effective coping and altering health behaviors appear to reduce stress and help the patient live longer, according to the report, published in the Dec. 15 issue of Cancer.

"If efficacious psychological interventions to reduce stress are delivered early, they will improve mental health, health and treatment-relevant behaviors, and potentially, biologic outcomes," the authors wrote. "If so, there is the possibility for improved survivorship and survival for cancer patients."

Researchers at Ohio State University based their findings on an 11-year study of more than 200 women who, at the start of the study, had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Patients randomly assigned to psychological intervention groups had about half (55 percent) the risk of cancer recurrence than those who didn't receive counseling. Those intervention patients who did have a recurrence had been cancer-free an average of six months longer than the patients in the control group, a 45 percent reduced risk.

Those in the intervention group also had less than half the risk (44 percent) of death from breast cancer compared with those who were not. They also had a reduced risk of death from all causes, not just cancer.

Psychological interventions may affect immune system changes that are secondary to stress hormones and that may promote cancer growth or metastasis, the authors hypothesized. They recommended that cancer patients be treated for psychological distress as well with medications.

The findings compliment previous papers that found psychological intervention significantly improved psychological, behavioral and health outcomes and enhanced immunity.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Nov. 17, 2008

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