The evidence for the effectiveness of psychological interventions for cancer patients is currently unclear. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which increases individual’s levels of psychological flexibility, may be more effective than other frameworks of psychological intervention, but good quality research is needed to inform adoption and implementation. This study explored the correlation between psychological flexibility and patient-reported outcomes to assess the viability of this intervention for cancer survivors.
Recruitment was coordinated through a regional cancer centre. One hundred twenty-nine respondents completed a cross-sectional postal questionnaire. They were of mixed gender, diagnosis and cancer stage; a mean 61 years old; and a mean 207 days post-diagnosis. Self-report questionnaires assessed psychological flexibility, mood, anxiety, depression, stress, quality of life and benefit finding.
Psychological flexibility was a strong and consistent correlate of outcome; effects were maintained even when potentially confounding clinical and sociodemographic characteristics were controlled.
Psychological flexibility can be modified through ACT-based interventions. Given the strong correlational evidence found in this study, it seems that such interventions might be useful for cancer survivors. High-quality and well-designed controlled trials are now needed to establish effectiveness.
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We are grateful to Lynda Appleton and Helen Wong at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (UK) for their help in identifying suitable patients for this study. We would also like to thank Lee Hulbert-Williams for statistical and data analysis advice. This study was funded through a Capacity Building Grant from the University of Chester UK.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest in respect to this work, and the publication thereof. The authors have full control of all primary data which can be provided to the journal on request.
Ethical approval was granted via University and NHS Ethics Committees (NRES Committee North West—Liverpool East; REC Reference 11/NW/0381) and research governance approval was granted from the primary Cancer Treatment Centre.
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Hulbert-Williams, N.J., Storey, L. Psychological flexibility correlates with patient-reported outcomes independent of clinical or sociodemographic characteristics. Support Care Cancer 24, 2513–2521 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-015-3050-9
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