Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Does Group Therapy Help Cancer Patients Live Longer?

news you may not know

Come on - Let's Give the Group a Try...

This is where it gets tricky. Research has consistently shown that group therapy is beneficial in helping people overcome psychological problems. There's something reaffirming about knowing you're not alone, knowing that others also share your problem-and in seeing that others have been successful in changing their lives. It gives you hope. But...

What if you have cancer?

Yes, this is exactly where the tricky part comes into play.

The idea of group therapy being beneficial, on a physical level, has stirred controversy for many years. Well, put on another pot, because a new study is sure to rile things up.

Barbara Andersen, of the University of Ohio, studied over 200 women with breast cancer. About half of the women participated in a year-long group therapy program, while the other half did not. Andersen then compared their outcomes at the end of 11 years.

There was a huge difference. The women who participated in the therapy sessions were 56 percent less likely to die of breast cancer during the period. They were also 45 percent less likely to have experienced a return of their breast cancer. That's a significant difference. Stunning, really.

So, was the outcome due to the group therapy - or due to the health decisions the therapy participants made? Good question. The therapy participants were encouraged to eat healthier and exercise more. They also learned coping techniques to help them reduce stress and to deal with their illness in a positive manner. Some suggest it's these choices, including a boost in the immune system from lowering stress, that is really at the heart of their better outcomes.

Possibly so. The real question seems to be whether it matters. Revisit those figures: 56 percent lower death rate; 45 percent lower recurrence rate. Does it really matter whether it was the chatting or the choices that caused the improvement?

So, go ahead - you know what to do. Start talking...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the benefits of a positive attitude, see this from the Canadian Mental Health Association.


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