Meditation-based therapy reduces anxiety, fear and fatigue among breast cancer survivors, USF Nursing study reports

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Tampa, FL (June 6, 2016) – A meditation-based stress reduction intervention significantly improved psychological and physical symptoms among breast cancer survivors, a University of South Florida College of Nursing study reports.

The interdisciplinary study, led by Cecile Lengacher, PhD, professor and predoctoral fellowship program director at the USF College of Nursing, found that mindfulness-based stress reduction for breast cancer survivors, or MBSR(BC), significantly reduced psychological symptoms of anxiety and fear, and physical symptoms of fatigue severity among participants. The intervention also showed improvements in quality of life.

The randomized controlled trial was part of Dr. Lengacher’s five-year R01 grant, funded by National Cancer Institute (NCI). The findings were recently published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“The results of this study are crucial for breast cancer survivors and their overall health,” Dr. Lengacher said. “As the largest identified randomized controlled trial yet, MBSR(BC) showed simultaneous effects on multiple symptoms and outcomes – an important contribution to clinical treatment.”

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USF College of Nursing Professor Cecile Lengacher, PhD, led the interdisciplinary study.

Dr. Lengacher and her research team recruited 322 breast cancer survivors, who were randomly assigned to a six-week MBSR(BC) program or a usual care group. The MBSR is a non-pharmacological stress reduction intervention, which involves group interaction and practice techniques including sitting and walking meditation, yoga and body scan.

Researchers assessed the participants’ psychological, physical and quality of health at baseline, and at six and 12 weeks. Results showed improvement in the MBSR(BC) group compared to the usual care group in both psychological and physical symptoms including anxiety, fear of cancer recurrence, and fatigue severity and interference. Participants with high levels of stress at baseline were also found to experience significant benefits from the intervention.

“There are more than 14.5 million cancer survivors living in the United States, with an estimated increase to 19 million by 2024,” Dr. Lengacher said. “These numbers show the need for more research on interventions that may help alleviate distressing psychological and physical symptoms experienced by these survivors. Our team of researchers from USF College of Nursing, USF Morsani College of Medicine, USF College of Public Health and Moffitt Cancer Center is committed to conducting more research and collecting more data – to help improve the health and well-being of those effected by breast cancer.”

In 2015, Dr. Lengacher received a $2.8 million grant from NCI to continue her research with breast cancer survivors – and focus on memory and concentration using the MBSR treatment. 

-USF Health-
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and the USF Physicians Group. The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu

Media Contact:
Vjollca “V” Hysenlika, USF College of Nursing Communications
(813) 974-2017, or vhysenli@health.usf.edu