Psychosocial interventions for patients with advanced cancer - a systematic review of the literature

Br J Cancer. 2004 Sep 13;91(6):1050-62. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6602103.


Advanced cancer is associated with emotional distress, especially depression and feelings of sadness. To date, it is unclear which is the most effective way to address these problems. This review focuses on the effects of psychosocial interventions on the quality of life (QoL) of patients with advanced cancer. It was hypothesised that patients will benefit from psychosocial interventions by improving QoL, especially in the domain of emotional functioning. The review was conducted using systematic review methodology involving a systematic search of the literature published between 1990 and 2002, quality assessment of included studies, systematic data extraction and narrative data synthesis. In all, 10 randomised controlled studies involving 13 trials were included. Overall interventions and outcome measures across studies were heterogeneous. Outcome measures, pertaining to the QoL dimension of emotional functioning, were most frequently measured. A total of 12 trials evaluating behaviour therapy found positive effects on one or more indicators of QoL, for example, depression. The results of the review support recommendation of behaviour therapy in the care of patients with advanced cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Quality of Life*