Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Psychological Distress in Patients With Cancer


Key Points

  • Both face-to-face and internet-based mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduced psychological distress in patients with cancer.
  • Both interventions reduced fear of cancer recurrence and improved mental health–related quality of life.

In a Dutch study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Compen et al found that both face-to-face and internet-based mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) reduced psychological distress compared with usual care in patients with cancer.

Study Details

In the trial, 245 patients with cancer with psychological distress—defined by a score ≥ 11 on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS)—were randomized to face-to-face MBCT (MBCT; n = 77), internet-based MBCT (eMBCT; n = 90), or usual treatment (n = 78). The MBCT was tailored to patients with cancer by including cancer-related psychoeducation and adapted movement exercises. The face-to-face MBCT consisted of eight weekly 2.5-hour group sessions, a 6-hour silent day, and daily home practice assignments guided by audio files. The eMBCT intervention was delivered individually and included weekly written interaction with a therapist via email. Patients received instructive material for 8 weeks plus a silent day; each session included an introduction and daily meditation exercises with meditation audio files.

The primary outcome was psychological distress on HADS, with significance for the 2 interventions vs the usual care group set at P < .025.

Improvement in Distress

Compared with usual treatment (change in mean HADS score from 17.04 at baseline to 16.37 at post-intervention), both the MBCT group (change from 18.81 to 13.25; Cohen’s d = .45, P < .001) and the eMBCT group (change from 17.24 to 11.87; Cohen’s d = .71, P < .001) exhibited significant improvement in psychological distress. Both MBCT and eMBCT significantly reduced fear of cancer recurrence and rumination and increased mental health–related quality of life, mindfulness skills, and positive mental health compared with usual treatment (all P < .025). No improvement in physical health-related quality of life was observed with either intervention.

The investigators concluded, “Compared with [treatment as usual], MBCT and eMBCT were similarly effective in reducing psychological distress in a sample of distressed heterogeneous patients with cancer.”

The study was supported by Pink Ribbon.

Félix Compen, MSc, of Radboud University Nijmegen, is the corresponding author for the Journal of Clinical Oncology article.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.