This study assessed the feasibility of a meditation-based program called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) with breast cancer survivors. Enrollment and participant satisfaction with a novel intervention, adherence to program requirements, and differences between the intervention group and wait list controls on self-report measures were also assessed. Additionally, cortisol, a stress-related endocrine biomarker, was assessed.
Participants (n = 33) were randomly assigned to CBCT or the wait list. CBCT provided eight weekly, 2-h classes and a “booster” CBCT session 4 weeks later. CBCT participants were expected to attend classes and meditate between classes at least three times per week. Pre-/post-intervention and follow-up questionnaires measured symptom change (depression, intrusive thoughts, perceived stress, fear of cancer recurrence, fatigue/vitality, loneliness, and quality of life). Saliva samples were collected at the same periods to assess the slope of diurnal cortisol activity.
Enrollment, class attendance, home practice time, and patient satisfaction exceeded expectations. Compared to controls, post-intervention, the CBCT group showed suggestions of significant improvements in depression, avoidance of intrusive thoughts, functional impairment associated with fear of recurrence, mindfulness, and vitality/fatigue. At follow-up, less perceived stress and higher mindfulness were also significant in the CBCT group. No significant changes were observed on any other measure including diurnal cortisol activity.
Within the limits of a pilot feasibility study, results suggest that CBCT is a feasible and highly satisfactory intervention potentially beneficial for the psychological well-being of breast cancer survivors. However, more comprehensive trials are needed to provide systematic evidence.
CBCT may be very beneficial for improving depression and enhancing well-being during breast cancer survivorship.
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We extend our deepest gratitude to the breast cancer survivors who participated in this study, to Ole Thienhaus, M.D., Chair of the Department of Psychiatry; to research personnel Laura Eparvier, Martha Barron, Angelica Medrano-Hernandez, and Mary Nielsen; and to Timothy Harrison of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative without whom this study would not have been possible.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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Dodds, S.E., Pace, T.W., Bell, M.L. et al. Feasibility of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) for breast cancer survivors: a randomized, wait list controlled pilot study. Support Care Cancer 23, 3599–3608 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-015-2888-1
- Breast cancer
- Fear of cancer recurrence