(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Participation in a fewer than 2 weeks of support group meetings is associated with long term cognitive function improvements in patients with breast cancer, according to a long-term follow-up analysis published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

“Support intervention significantly improved cognitive function, body image, future perspective and fatigue, compared with the findings in the control group,” reported lead author Helena Granstam Björneklett, a doctoral student, of the Department of Oncology at Västmanland County Hospital in Västerås, Sweden, and coauthors.

Women with breast cancer frequently experience anxiety, depression and fatigue, impacting their health-related quality of life “for several years” after treatment, the authors reported. Prior studies have reported that such symptoms can persist for up to 15% of patients 5 years after diagnosis, they noted.

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“This long-term follow-up of a prospective randomized trial of support group intervention in a large homogenous group of women treated for primary breast cancer showed a significant effect of intervention,” Dr. Björneklett and coauthors reported.

At a mean follow-up of 6.5 years, the authors analyzed data from 382 women with primary breast cancer who had been randomized to participate in a support group intervention or a control group (n=191 to each study arm). Group support involved 1 week of group meetings supported by 4 days of follow-up meetings 2 months later, the authors reported.

“After adjusting for treatment with chemotherapy, age, marriage, education and children at home, there was a significant improvement in physical, mental and total fatigue, cognitive function, body image and future perspective” in the group-support intervention group, the authors reported.

Patients in the group support arm reported significantly greater improvements than control-group patients in emotional function (P =0.042), cognitive function (P=0.049), fatigue (P =0.023), body image (P =0.025), future perspective (P =0.019) and breast symptoms (P =0.029), the authors reported. However, the study revealed no effect of group intervention on participants’ anxiety (P=0.385)  or depression (P =0.701) levels compared to the control group.