Participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program yields robust and sustained improvement in cancer-related cognitive impairment, according to a new study from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine.
This was a first randomized clinical trial to evaluate the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction, known as MBSR, on fatigued breast and colorectal cancer survivors, whom had been treated with chemotherapy.
The study researched the cognitive functioning of breast and colorectal cancer survivors with moderate-to-severe fatigue. The participants were divided into the Mindfulness Baser Stress Reduction (MBRS) support group – attending mindfulness meditation classes and the fatigue Education Support (ES) support group – receiving educational materials and attending counselling sessions. Both groups were attending 8 weeks 2 hours classes led by skilled facilitators and they were examined after 8 weeks and 6months later. Programs in MBSR included a variety of meditation and yoga practices and other elements.
The MBSR group significantly outperformed ES on most test on their ability to pay attention in a 8 weeks and 6 month period, although both groups improved over time. The MBSR made fewer mistakes on difficult cognitive tasks relative to ES, with improved accuracy over time only for the MBSR group.
“Mindfulness meditation practices enable cancer survivors to better manage cancer-related cognitive impairment, reported by approximately 35 percent of cancer survivors who have completed treatment,” said Dr. Johns, who is a Regenstrief Institute investigator and assistant professor of medicine in the IU School of Medicine. “MBSR provides a creative solution for survivors whose social and occupational functioning may have been negatively impacted by cognitive difficulties.”
Retention rates in the trial exceeded 95 percent, strongly suggesting that participants found the program to be worthwhile. Previous studies by the Regenstrief-IU research group have found MBSR to have a positive impact on post-cancer fatigue, depression and sleep disturbance.
Study abstract here