At Carina Sciences we are currently working on RezlCare, a version of our Rezl app, aimed at cancer patients and those close to them. RezlCare provides information, advice and psychological support.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic experience – and the treatment plan may bring many unknows as patients undertake ongoing tests and scans. The cancer treatments themselves may cause side effects, anxieties and fatigue; and even at the end of treatment, patients may often feel a little “lost” as the regular routine of clinic appointments falls away. RezlCare includes a toolbox containing sessions to address many of the challenges and emotions that are encountered throughout a treatment journey.
And the emotional rollercoaster is not confined to the patients – family members, or these close to patients, may also experience many of the same emotions. In RezlCare we have included advice and support for those close to someone diagnosed with cancer.
What does the science say?
In preparation for the launch of RezlCare, I have been gathering research on the impact of mindfulness upon cancer patients.
The research shows that mindfulness significantly reduces anxiety and depression with cancer patients as well as providing a longer-term increase in metal wellbeing and an enhanced quality of life. Mindfulness is shown to reduce the impact of fatigue (during and after treatment) and to improve immune system response. Mindfulness is effective in reducing sleep problems including insomnia. In the longer term, Mindfulness shows reduced “fear or reoccurrence” and an increased “tolerance of uncertainly”.
These findings are summarised from a 2019 Meta Analysis – looking research into the effectiveness of mindfulness for cancer patients – Mehta et al (New York). Here.
[Note that as one might expect, a reduction in stress improves immune response – and trials have biomarkers to demonstrate this effect – however we are not planning to use this research in our messaging as we wish to present RezlCare as a support rather than as therapy.]
A 2018 Dutch study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology – Compton et al – “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Psychological Distress in Patients With Cancer” show results for a trial. Here.
The trial involving 245 breast patients exhibiting, with “psychological distress” defined by a score ≥ 11 on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). It contrasted eMBCT, “face to face MBCT with “treatment as usual”. The “eMBCT group” achieved a HADS reduction from 17.24 to 11.87 – almost eliminating “psychological distress” in comparison with a “treatment as usual” group which produced a small change in HADS score from 17.04 at baseline to 16.37 . The eMBCT proved slightly more effective than face to face MBCT. The researcher commented that “Compared with treatment as usual, MBCT and eMBCT were similarly effective in reducing psychological distress in a sample of distressed heterogeneous patients with cancer.”
So, mindfulness will offer many benefits to those being treated for cancer – but does it help to reduce the possibility of a re-occurrence of cancer? Turns out …it does
I was interested to read this 2018 paper (Modica and Hoenig) that looks at the effectiveness of mindfulness (MBSR a precursor to the MBCT used within RezlCare) in helping to reduce the reoccurrence of breast cancer. It appears that mindfulness it shown to increase compliance with lifestyle changes and ongoing monitoring to reduce the likelihood of a reoccurrence. This makes sense as we know that mindfulness both increases executive function (willpower to stick to some change) and to reduced negative thoughts that might cause patients to put off monitoring appointments. So in these ways Mindfulness helps patients to reduce the possibility of re-occurrence of cancer. Here.
The researchers concluded that “It is clear that several behavioural factors related to one’s lifestyle such as physical activity, diet, BMI, smoking, and alcohol consumption have an impact on the risk of breast cancer recurrence. A change in lifestyle after breast cancer diagnosis can thus have a powerful impact on prognosis. However, many patients do not implement healthier habits after diagnosis. …Mindfulness offers a great number of health benefits for patients ranging from enhanced coping skills and various quality of life improvements to reductions in psychopathological symptomatology including anxiety and depression. Given that psychopathologies like depression or anxiety disorders have been indirectly associated with increased overall morbidity and mortality, it might be reasonable to speculate that mindfulness practice may also be beneficial in the course of breast cancer.”
If you or someone you know is dealing with cancer and would like to try RezlCare then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.