As many as 80% of breast cancer patients report significant distress during initial treatment, yet there is little in the way of systematic psychotherapeutic interventions for women coping with the stress of a recent diagnosis of breast cancer. The literature on psychotherapeutic treatment of cancer patients provides uniform evidence for an improvement in mood, coping and adjustment as a result of group therapy. The present study examined the feasibility of implementing a manualized treatment, supportive-expressive group psychotherapy, in busy oncology practices across the US. This intervention was applied to women with primary breast cancer in a manner which tests not only the efficacy of the approach but also its accessibility to group therapists not previously experienced in its use. One hundred and eleven breast cancer patients within 1 year of diagnosis were recruited from ten geographically diverse sites of the National Cancer Institute's Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) and two academic medical centers. Two therapists from each site were trained in supportive-expressive group psychotherapy. Training consisted of participation in a workshop, reading a treatment manual, and viewing explanatory videotapes. Each patient participated in a supportive-expressive group that met for 12 weekly sessions lasting 90 min. Assessment of mood disturbance was made at entry, 3, 6, and 12 months. Results indicated a significant 40% decrease in the Total Mood Disturbance (TMD) scores of the Profile of Mood States (POMS) (ANOVA F [2,174]=3.98, p<0.05). The total symptom score of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was likewise significantly reduced over the 6-month period (F [2, 174]=5.2, p<0.01). Similarly, the total score of the Impact of Event Scale (IES) was significantly reduced (F [2,174]=4.0, p<0.05). There was substantial uniformity of treatment effect across sites. Outcome was independent of stage of disease (I vs. II). We conclude that this treatment program can be effectively implemented in a community setting and results in reduced distress among breast cancer patients.
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View details for PubMedID 10607981