After more than a decade, breast cancer patients who completely a 10 week stress management program early after diagnosis had higher mood and quality of life scores than patients who did not take the course.
Researchers assert that depression is common during cancer treatment and afterwards.
Cancer survivors never have a guarantee that the disease will not come back which garners stress. In addition, treatment itself can lead to other sources of stress like fatigue or sexual dysfunction. Although therapists can help alleviate the stress, not all women have access to therapy.
Progressive muscle relation and deep breathing techniques along with strategies for changing self-defeating and irrational thoughts about life stressors, known as cognitive behavioral stress management techniques can be learned and applied o daily life and breast cancer specific stressors.
According to researchers these technique have shown to improve regulation of the adrenal stress hormone cortisol in women suffering from breast cancer. Better regulation of cortisol results in less depression and inflammation.
The study recruited women who had underwent breast cancer surgery between 1998 and 2005. The women were randomly assigned to either a one-day breast cancer education seminar or a 10-week group based stress management behavioral therapy program with guided session on coping skills, identifying sources of stress and modifying stress response, anger management, muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.
The authors of the study followed up in 2013 and were able to assess 51 women in the stress management group and 49 in the comparison group. Those in the stress management group reported better quality of life and physical and emotional well-being.
Researchers believe that after being taught skills that could be applied to daily stress, the women in the stress management group did practice these skills to keep depressive symptoms at bay.