Group therapy can help breast cancer patients feel better, but it won't help them live longer. Patients who got support therapy in addition to their medical treatment lived an average of 18 months longer. The 158 women assigned to group therapy did not live any longer than the 77 who got only medical treatmen. However, women in the therapy groups did report less pain and emotional distress -- especially if the levels were high to start with.
Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University, who led the study, said improvements in both treatment and social acceptance of cancer may explain the difference between his research and the earlier studies.
The breast cancer death rate has been dropping substantially since the late 1990s because of earlier detection and more effective treatments. David's research found that patients whose breast cancer had spread lived an average of 37 months if they got group therapy, compared with 19 months if they did not.