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Group Therapy Helps Cancer Patients Cope Better, Live Longer

Posted Jun 19 2009 10:13pm
Reuters Health news agency released a new study led by Ohio State University that supports the idea that psychological support groups can help women with breast cancer not only cope better with the disease, but live longer.

Researchers studied 227 women with breast cancer. About half took part in a year of therapy in groups of 8 to 12 patients led by two clinical psychologists, while the others did not.

After 11 years, the women who participated in the group therapy were 56 percent less likely to die of breast cancer and 45 percent less likely to have their cancer return, the researchers wrote in the journal Cancer.

"Survival is kind of the bottom line when it comes to cancer. So we have people being healthy, productive people for longer -- and that's a huge health outcome," Barbara Andersen, who helped lead the therapy groups, said in a telephone interview to Reuters.

The women had Stage II or Stage III breast cancer in which the tumor may have spread to the lymph nodes near the breast or chest wall or skin, but not to more distant parts of the body.

Andersen said the group sessions, among other things, aimed to reduce the women's distress, train them how to relax and improve coping skills, improve their diet and exercise habits and discourage smoking and drinking alcohol.

The improved survival may stem from better immune function resulting from stress reduction, the researchers said.
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