Assessing Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy For Cancer Pain

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Researchers are attempting to determine the usefulness of mindfulness for cancer pain.
Researchers are attempting to determine the usefulness of mindfulness for cancer pain.

The Journal of Clinical Oncology recently published results from 1 of the first trials to target post-treatment pain among breast cancer survivors using a mindfulness-based approach.1

Mindfulness, in this context, involves bringing attention to an individual's present moment experiences, including thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, with openness, curiosity, and acceptance.

The researchers observed a “statistically significant, robust, and durable effect on pain intensity,” and suggested that mindfulness may have a role in pain management for women with breast cancer. These results prompted an editorial by Julienne E. Bower, PhD, director of the Mind-Body Research Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to ask about the best way to design trials assessing the efficacy of mindfulness.2,3

“The first randomized controlled trial of mindfulness for patients with cancer was published 16 years ago and used a wait-list control design. Research on mindfulness is now more mature and requires more rigorous control and comparison conditions,” she wrote.

“In particular, it will be important to determine whether mindfulness interventions are more effective than other evidence-based approaches for treating pain and other psychological and behavioral symptoms in patients with cancer and survivors, when these exist.”

RELATED: Methadone May be Effective in Pain Treatment for Patients With Head and Neck Cancer

In an interview with Cancer Therapy Advisor, Diane E. Meier, MD, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, in New York, New York, called mindfulness therapy “obviously beneficial.” But she added that proponents must produce trial results that both establish the efficacy of a mindfulness-based approach and demonstrate a benefit for multiple levels of the health care system.

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