Mindfulness-based interventions for coping with cancer

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Work in the development and evaluation of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for cancer care has been underway for the last 20 years, and a growing body of literature now supports their efficacy. MBIs are particularly helpful in dealing with common experiences related to cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship, including loss of control, uncertainty about the future, and fears of recurrence, as well as a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Our adaptation, mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR), has resulted in improvements across a range of psychological and biological outcomes, including cortisol slopes, blood pressure, and telomere length, in various groups of cancer survivors. In this paper, I review the rationale for MBIs in cancer care and provide an overview of the state of the current literature, with a focus on results from three recent clinical trials conducted by our research group. These include a comparative efficacy trial comparing MBCR to supportive–expressive therapy in distressed breast cancer survivors, a non-inferiority trial comparing MBCR to cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in cancer survivors with clinical insomnia, and an online adaptation of MBCR for rural and remote cancer survivors without access to in-person groups. I conclude by outlining work in progress and future directions for MBI research and applications in cancer care.

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