Living in the Present with Cancer

Mindfulness therapy helps cancer patients ward off anxiety and depression

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) It's no surprise that levels of anxiety and depression are often high among cancer patients. But the non-medication treatment of mindfulness can make a dent in those symptoms.

A recent study has found that providing mindfulness therapy to cancer patients can help relieve their symptoms of anxiety and depression for at least half a year.

"Learn to practice mindfulness to combat anxiety and depression."

Jacob Piet, a psychologist and PhD student in the Department of Psychology at Aarhus University in Denmark, and colleagues have investigated the influence of mindfulness practice on cancer patients with anxiety and depression symptoms.

Piet analyzed 22 studies involving mindfulness-based therapy that included a total of 1,403 cancer patients.

They found that the effects of mindfulness therapy was well documented as an effective and inexpensive option for reducing anxiety and depression in cancer patients. The improvements also lasted for at least six months following the treatment.

Mindfulness is more than just thinking about the present. It's a specific psychological therapy that uses meditation, cognitive therapy and stress reduction techniques to help people become more conscious of life as it happens and reduce worry about the past and future.

One goal of the attentiveness taught by mindfulness practice is to reduce judgment of one's self, including emotions, thoughts and physical sensations, and accept one's self and feelings.

Almost half of patients diagnosed with cancer experience severe depression within the first year of their diagnosis, and about 35 to 40 percent of cancer patients continue to suffer from anxiety and depression.

These symptoms of depression have also been linked to higher risk for suicide, more time spent in the hospital, and an overall higher likelihood of dying.

Mindfulness therapy takes place in weekly group sessions for two months and includes both mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The therapist expects participants to complete mindfulness homework exercises as part of the therapy.

The study was published online ahead of print May 7 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Information regarding external funding or conflicts of interest was unavailable.

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Review Date: 
June 11, 2012
Last Updated:
June 12, 2012