Effect of Mindfulness Audio Recordings on Physical, Emotional Side Effects During Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

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Listening to mindfulness audio recordings may effectively alleviate the side effects of radiation therapy in men with prostate cancer, according to a recent study published by Victorson et al in Global Advances in Integrative Medicine and Health.


Men with prostate cancer who receive radiation therapy often experience significant side effects such as fatigue, sleep issues, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. However, these patients are seldom participate in needed oncology supportive care.

“Men with cancer, no matter the age, are a hard group to help because they don’t tend to engage in supportive care activities like their women counterparts,” explained lead study author David Victorson, PhD, Professor of Medical Social Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The fact that this intervention is passive—they don’t have to go to a support group and they can be getting their treatment while we layer on symptom support—is a twofer,” he added.

Mindfulness is capable of targeting the parasympathetic nervous system by inducing a relaxation response and regulating emotion. These types of recordings can instruct individuals to focus on their breathing and grounding themselves.

“[This] offers [patients] a place to … view thoughts and feelings coming and going in the mind. [As they] learn to see [their] thoughts as mental events arising and falling, [they] are cultivating … a sense of deep stillness and peace. The goal is to see if [they] can observe [their thoughts] without reacting to them. That’s how [they can] regulate [their] constantly thinking, ruminating, and reacting minds. It can be very helpful in managing anxiety, pain, and fatigue,” Dr. Victorson stated.

Study Methods and Results

In the recent pilot study, researchers assigned 27 men with prostate cancer to undergo a brief mindfulness intervention—involving short 3- to 6-minute audio-based mindfulness recordings asking the patients to focus on their breath, posture, sounds, and environment—or listen to relaxing music during their daily 5- to 15-minute radiation therapy.

The researchers found that the side effects in men who underwent radiation therapy with the mindfulness intervention decreased compared with those who listened to relaxing music. For instance, the mindfulness group’s fatigue and sleep disturbance scores decreased by a respective 2.65 and 4.5 points, suggesting a clinically meaningful improvement. Conversely, the music group’s fatigue and sleep disturbance scores worsened by 7.46 and 6.15 points, respectively. 


“We were really leveraging the fact that they were a captive audience. We’re optimizing their treatment to not just treat their cancer but also get a jump on managing physical and emotional side effects,” Dr. Victorson highlighted.

Although the study size was small, the research resulted in critical insights into whether a mindfulness intervention may be feasible and when it can and should be implemented.

“Our primary goal was to determine the point we should start the intervention in [patients’] radiation treatment. Then, we don’t freak them out the first day but get them early enough to see their symptoms improve,” concluded Dr. Victorson.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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®.