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Cancer Patient Support Groups Improve Quality of Life

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Evidence-based studies have shown that structured group interventions for cancer patients improve psychological well being, reduce anxiety and depression, improve quality of life, as well as coping and mental adjustment.

"Within the last two decades psychosocial group interventions have been developed to help cancer patients cope better with the psychosocial sequelae of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Support groups include a variety of different approaches, some of which focus on behavioral aspects and symptoms (e.g., pain, fatigue) and some on the expression of emotions," investigators in Germany report.

"Most of these support programs are structured and short-term and include elements such as delivery of information, emotional and social support, stress management strategies based on the cognitive behavioral approach and the teaching of relaxation techniques," wrote J. Weis and colleagues, Tumor Biology Center, Department of Psychooncology.

"Beyond individual therapy, group therapies can address cancer-related issues to enable patients to gain emotional support from other patients with similar experiences and to use these experiences to buffer the fear of dying and the unknown future," the researchers wrote.

"One of the overall therapeutic targets is the promotion of the patient's individual resources. Therefore, such groups are helpful not only for the patients, but also for their spouses and other family members, in relieving the cancer-related distress. In Germany, support groups are established in rehabilitation clinics as well as outpatient programs and play an important role in palliative and supportive care of cancer patients," the researchers stated.

"Against the background of changes in the patients' role, the increasing availability of information technology (e.g., the internet), and patient advocacy in cancer treatment, support groups may be understood as a mean of empowerment of the patient," the researchers wrote.

"The need for group interventions such as outpatient programs for cancer patients is claimed not only by the health professionals but also by the patients themselves. There is some research emphasizing that avoidance of feelings, denial of concerns, feelings of helplessness and social isolation are correlated with poorer health outcome and poorer quality of life," they added.

The researchers concluded: "Many empirical studies have provided evidence-based knowledge that structured group interventions for cancer patients improve psychological well being, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve quality of life, coping and mental adjustment. Positive effects on survival have even been reported, but these effects have not yet been proven."

Weis and colleagues published their study in Supportive Care in Cancer (Support groups for cancer patients. Support Care Cancer, 2003;11(12):763-768).

For additional information, contact J. Weis, Tumor Biology Center, Department of Psychooncol, Breisacher Str 117, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany.

The publisher of the journal Supportive Care in Cancer can be contacted at: Springer-Verlag, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA.

The information in this article comes under the major subject areas of Oncology. This article was prepared by Biotech Law Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2004, Biotech Law Week via 

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