Dr. Barbara L. Andersen, who led the study at The Ohio State University, said that breast cancer patients who participated in intervention sessions focusing on improving mood, coping effectively, and altering health behaviours lived longer than those who did not receive the interventions.
Cancer patients undergo a significant amount of stress before, during, and after treatment, and receiving a psychological intervention could reduce the negative effects of stress and ultimately change the course of a patient's disease.
The research team tracked 227 patients who had been treated for regional breast cancer for an average of 11 years, noting any cancer recurrences.
The patients, who were directed to receive intervention sessions, had almost half (55 percent) the risk of recurrence compared to the control patients.
The study also found that patients receiving the intervention had less than half the risk of death from breast cancer as compared to those who did not receive the intervention, and had a reduced risk of death from all causes, not just cancer.
"If efficacious psychological interventions to reduce stress are delivered early, they will improve mental health, health and treatment-relevant behaviours, and potentially, biologic outcomes," the authors wrote.
"If so, there is the possibility for improved survivorship and survival for cancer patients," they added.
The study is published in the issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.