Psychological support for patients with cancer: evidence review and suggestions for future directions

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Psychological distress and mental health comorbidity are common in cancer. Various therapeutic frameworks have been used for interventions to improve psychological wellbeing and quality of life in cancer patients with mixed results. This article reviews contributions to that literature published since January 2017.

Recent findings

The majority of new psychological intervention research in cancer has used cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or mindfulness-based interventions. CBT has been considered a gold-standard intervention and recent evidence justifies continuation of this. Recent reviews call into question the validity of evidence for mindfulness-based interventions. A smaller number of trials using acceptance and commitment therapy, meta-cognitive therapy, dignity therapy and coaching have emerged, and whereas findings are promising, additional fully powered trials are required. Weaker evidence exists for counselling, support-based and narrative therapy interventions.

Summary

Efficacious, timely and acceptable psychological interventions are a necessary component of comprehensive cancer care. There is some way to go before the evidence conclusively points towards which interventions work for which cancer groups and for which specific outcomes. Methodological limitations must be addressed in future trials; at the forefront remains the need for fully powered, head-to-head comparison trials.

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