Group Therapy May Boost Survival Rate in Breast Cancer Patients

Joining support groups can be very beneficial and new research suggests that women with breast cancer could increase their chance of survival by joining a support group.

Researchers at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center discovered that women who attended regular intervention programs reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer by 56 percent. These programs taught women how to reduce stress, improve their mood and alter health behaviors, which also reduced the risk for breast cancer to come back by 45 percent.

“The results suggest that we can help breast cancer patients make positive steps that may help them live longer and make recurrence less likely,” said Barbara Andersen, lead author of the study and a member of Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of psychology. “We already knew a psychological intervention program could help breast cancer patients to handle their stress, function more effectively, and improve their health. Now we know it does even more.”

The study included 227 participants who were surgically treated for Stage II or Stage III breast cancer and researchers tracked the women for 11 years during this study. Half of the women were enrolled in the intervention program while the other half were given just the regular treatment of assessments on a regular basis.

The intervention group met weekly in small groups with a clinical psychologist. The weekly sessions continued for four months and participants learned about topics such as stress management, problem solving, finding support from family and friends, exercise and diet tips, dealing with treatment side-effects and keeping up with medical treatment.

Researchers found that those participating in the invention program lived longer and were less likely to die from other causes, such as heart disease or other cancers.

“Many of the strategies patients learned in the intervention program, such as stress reduction, may have protected them from heart disease and other causes of death,” Andersen said.

This study was designed to look at breast cancer recurrence and survival rates. “We found a strong relationship between patients' use of the intervention strategies we taught them and better health,” she said.

The women in the intervention group with the best results were the ones that practiced progressive muscle relaxation more frequently. They also learned and remember stress reduction techniques they were taught and applied them in situations when needed.

This study will be published in the December 15 issue of the journal Cancer.

Source: Ohio State University News Release