Objective: This pilot study explored the feasibility and the efficacy of a brief, well-defined psychosocial intervention (expressive disclosure) in improving behavioral, medical, immunological, and emotional health outcomes in men with diagnosed prostate cancer.
Method: Thirty prostate cancer patients receiving outpatient oncology care were randomized into experimental (disclosure) and control (non-disclosure) groups. All had been previously treated by surgery or radiation within the last 4 years and were being monitored without further intervention for change in PSA levels. Psychological and physical health surveys were administered and peripheral blood for PSA levels and immune assays was obtained upon study enrollment and again at 3 and 6 months post enrollment. Multivariate analyses were used to examine how the expressive disclosure impacted the hypothesized domains of functioning: physical and psychological symptoms; health care utilization; and immunocompetence.
Results: Compared to controls, patients in the expressive disclosure condition showed improvements in the domains of physical symptoms and health care utilization, but not in psychological variables nor in disease relevant aspects of immunocompetence.
Conclusions: Study results support the feasibility of an expressive disclosure intervention for men with prostate cancer. The intervention was well accepted by this population, and participation/adherence was quite high. Results provide only limited support for the hypothesis that a written emotional disclosure task can positively impact health outcomes in a cancer population. However, this pilot study may have lacked adequate power to detect possible intervention benefits. Further studies with larger samples are needed to better assess the intervention's impact on psychological well-being and immunocompetence.