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Prostate Cancer Patients Reduce Stress

CancerWise - December 2007


By Dawn Dorsey

Stress management initiatives, even brief sessions, may improve mood and quality of life in men with early-stage prostate cancer who are facing surgery, experts say.

Significance of results

Researchers at M. D. Anderson found in a recent study that pre-surgical stress management counseling helped improve the state of mind of men with early-stage prostate cancer who were scheduled for radical prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate). The study results were presented at the 2007 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The diagnosis of prostate cancer often is stress-inducing. Men worry about the surgery and its possible side effects, including impotence and incontinence, which can have a profound effect on quality of life.

Research methods

M. D. Anderson recruited 158 prostate cancer patients to the study.

They were divided into three groups. Those who received:

  • Stress management
  • Supportive attention
  • Usual care

The stress management group:

  • Met with a clinical psychologist twice before surgery
  • Discussed fears and concerns about the surgery
  • Learned slow, deep breathing and guided imagery
  • Received brief cognitive therapy and information about coping skills

The supportive attention group:

  • Met with a clinical psychologist twice before surgery
  • Discussed fears and concerns about surgery
  • Received a semi-structured medical interview

Patients in the stress management and supportive attention groups also met briefly with a therapist just before surgery and again before discharge from the hospital.

The usual care group:

  • Did not meet with a clinical psychologist
  • Did not receive any stress management techniques

Men in all three groups completed surveys measuring their moods and quality of life:

  • Two to four weeks before surgery
  • Two to seven days before surgery
  • The morning of surgery
  • Six weeks after surgery
  • Six and twelve months after surgery

Primary results

Patients from all three groups showed decreases in mood disturbance over the study period. However, the stress management group scored much better on mood tests than the other two groups.

"Patients are, of course, anxious and experience distress leading up to surgery, but over time all patients have a decrease in these levels after surgery," says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., a professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science and lead author on the study. "However, we saw that mood disturbance was not as high and recovery was faster if the men participated in stress management counseling."

Additional results

After surgery, the groups that received counseling reported:

  • Better physical function
  • No changes or differences in pain
  • Better quality of life 12 months later

What's next?

Cohen's group is researching other forms of stress management for patients undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Future research will examine which patients would benefit most from participating in pre-surgical stress management training.

M. D. Anderson resources:

Other resources:


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center