Survivorship: from research to reality

The 6th Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference: has a great tag after the colon, "Translating Science to Cancer."For the last five meeting, attendees have heard the results of research with lots of statistics and numbers about what should be done. But this year, the focus is on how to implement programs that will bring about the changes the survivor community has been asking for. For example, you read about the research Barbara Anderson, PhD, completed at The Ohio State University in our article All Stressed Out. Anderson's research showed psychological interventions to reduce stress improved survival for the breast cancer patients being studied. The results, published in the journal Cancer in 2008, reported the results of a long-term trial of 227 breast cancer patients who were randomized to either participate in psychological interventions to manage stress after breast cancer treatment or to only be assessed and receive no interventions. The intervention consisted of small-group sessions conducted by psychologists who taught participants strategies to reduce stress and improve quality of life. Specific strategies included progressive muscle relaxation (a series of exercises in which participants tense and release specific muscle groups for stress reduction), problem-solving for common difficulties such as fatigue, identifying supportive family members or friends who were capable of providing assistance, using assertive communication to get their psychological and medical needs met, strategies to increase daily activity such as walking, improving dietary habits, and finding ways to cope with treatment side effects and maintaining adherence to medical treatment and follow-up. While results such as these would be front page news if it was a pill, Anderson's study received little coverage. She has stayed with her research and will begin training clinicians in how to deliver the interventions this year. In other sessions during the next three days we'll be looking at where we are in side effects and late effects in a number of areas. I'll keep you posted.