Emotional well-being doesn't affect cancer outcome

NEW YORK Tue Oct 23, 2007 2:07am BST

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The results of a new study provide no evidence to support the notion that patients with cancer can influence the course or outcome of their cancer by making changes to improve their emotional well-being or, in particular, that psychotherapy can help them live longer.

Of 1,093 head and neck cancer patients who provided information on their emotional health during their cancer treatment, Dr. James C. Coyne of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and colleagues found that emotional well-being was not a predictor of survival.

Altogether, 646 patients died during the 1992-2000 study and emotional status was not related to survival, even after adjusting for several other factors like gender, characteristics or stage of the tumor, the team reports in the journal Cancer.

Emotional status "neither directly affected progression or death nor functioned as a lurking variable," Coyne and colleagues report.

Based on this study and the published literature, credible evidence that cancer patients' participation in psychotherapy or support groups prolongs their lives is lacking, they note.

In a recent issue of Psychological Bulletin, Dr. Coyne wrote: "The hope that we can fight cancer by influencing emotional states appears to have been misplaced."

"If cancer patients want psychotherapy or to be in a support group," he went on to say, "they should be given the opportunity to do so. There can be lots of emotional and social benefits. But they should not seek such experiences solely on the expectation that they are extending their lives."

SOURCE: Cancer, online October 22, 2007.

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