NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A series of therapy sessions designed to address all aspects of cancer patients’ lives, from physical fitness to spiritual well-being, can help maintain their quality of life and even improve it, a new study shows.
People undergoing treatment for cancer typically experience a decline in quality of life, Dr. Teresa A. Rummans of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota and colleagues write in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Interventions designed to help maintain these patients’ well-being may include education on cancer, coping strategies, and emotional support, Rummans and her team add, but they usually only address one or two aspects of quality of life.
The researchers developed a program designed to target all five “domains” or aspects of quality of life — cognitive, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social functioning. To test it, they assigned 103 patients with advanced cancer undergoing radiation therapy to receive the intervention or to a control group given standard medical care.
The intervention consisted of eight 90-minute sessions, each opening with 20 minutes of conditioning exercise with a physical therapist and closing with10 to 20 minutes of guided relaxation.
The sessions also featured training in coping skills, such as making healthy lifestyle changes and keeping journals; stress management training; and training in assertiveness and goal setting. Sessions also included social support from both therapists and other patients, and addressed spiritual issues, for example religious beliefs and feelings of grief, guilt and hope.
At the end of the eight weeks, quality of life improved by 3 points (on a scale of 1 to 100) in the group who participated in the therapy sessions, but dropped 9 points in the control group. Participating patients showed improvements in physical symptoms; emotional, social and spiritual well-being; and legal concerns compared to those in the control group.
The sessions cost about $2,000 per participant, Rummans and her team write. “It may be that the potential benefit obtained in the quality of the advanced cancer patient’s limited life span is well worth the expense of the intervention,” they add.?