A new Ohio study says that a psychological intervention for breast cancer patients not only relieves their depression but also lowers indicators of inflammation.
The researchers showed that patients, who received a psychological therapy that reduced stress and enhanced their ability to cope, experienced significant relief of depressive symptoms.
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"This study shows that by helping breast cancer patients with depression, they will also experience less inflammation," said study leader Dr. William E. Carson, III, professor in the division of surgical oncology and associate director for clinical research at the OSUCCC-James.
"Previously, we knew that inflammation was associated with depression-like symptoms among cancer patients, and that both are problematic, but we did not know whether treating depression would affect inflammation," said co-author Barbara L. Andersen, professor of psychology and an OSUCCC-James researcher.
"Inflammation is considered to be a cancer promoting factor, and both depression and inflammation predict increased risk of cancer death," she added.
During the study, the researchers examined records from 45 patients, of which, 23 patients had been randomized to receive the psychological intervention plus the assessment.
The remaining 22 patients received only the assessment, which consisted of a personal interview and questionnaires that evaluated mood, fatigue, health status and the influence of pain on quality of life.
They found that patients receiving intervention showed significant declines in symptoms of depression, fatigue, and pain and in the markers of inflammation.
"Our findings underscore the importance of including psychological interventions in the comprehensive care of cancer patients who experience significant distress," said first author Lisa Thornton, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology.
The findings are published online in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.