Therapy Can Relieve Stress in Breast Cancer Patients

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Psychological therapy can help breast cancer patients maintain a positive outlook.

Researchers at the University of Miami have found that women who receive psychological therapy following breast cancer-related surgery feel less distress than those who do not talk to a therapist. Such therapy teaches women coping mechanisms to help them better handle the stress associated with cancer treatment. Ideally, the women will enter chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments with the emotional tools to stay strong and psychologically healthy.

Researchers asked 183 breast cancer patients in the Miami area to attend five weeks of therapy in one of three areas: cognitive-behavioral training (in which women learned to change their thoughts about stressors), relaxation training (which included muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises) or a health education control group. Women who participated in either the cognitive-behavioral training and the relaxation training showed greater improvements in mood than the women in the control group.

The women displayed greater confidence, had a strong sense of social support, and felt they had the skills to stay relaxed and in control during cancer treatments. The findings emphasize the importance of using psychological techniques while fighting a physical disease. The therapy works best when performed after surgery and before chemotherapy or radiation. 

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