Lemons to lemonade: Effects of a biobehavioral intervention for cancer patients on later life changes.

Conley CC, Andersen BL
Health Psychol 38 206-216 01/01/2019


OBJECTIVE: The sustainment of gains for cancer patients provided psychosocial interventions is unclear. Furthermore, it is unknown whether interventions also yield long-term positive changes. The present study experimentally tests if an intervention delivered at cancer diagnosis could yield broad, long-term, changes in domains such as relationships, worldview, priorities, and goals. It was hypothesized that the intervention group would report more positive and fewer negative life changes during survivorship versus the control group.

METHOD: Patients with Stage II/III breast cancer were randomized to biobehavioral intervention (BBI) or assessment only. At randomization, patients completed measures of cancer stress (Impact of Events Scale [IES]) and depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale [CES-D]). At the 24-month follow-up, survivors (N = 160) completed a thought listing task with 7 prompts (e.g., "relationships"). Patients listed thoughts about change since diagnosis and rated each for valence. Groups were compared on the frequency of positive/negative thoughts across prompts. Listed thoughts were content analyzed.

RESULTS: BBI survivors reported significantly more positive changes (p < .05), controlling for IES and CES-D. Groups did not differ on negative changes. Patients with higher IES/CES-D scores reported more negative changes at 24 months (ps < .05). Content analysis revealed a predominance (13/23) of positive thought categories.

CONCLUSIONS: Adding support for efficacy, BBI survivors reported significantly more positive life changes since diagnosis than survivors not receiving BBI. More generally, heightened stress/depressive symptoms at diagnosis foretold survivors' reporting of more negative changes. Thought listing is a strategy to obtain personalized accounts of life changes after breast cancer. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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