Reduction of cancer-specific thought intrusions and anxiety symptoms with a stress management intervention among women undergoing treatment for breast cancer

Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Oct;163(10):1791-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.2006.163.10.1791.


Objective: After surgery for breast cancer, many women experience anxiety relating to the cancer that can adversely affect quality of life and emotional functioning during the year postsurgery. Symptoms such as intrusive thoughts may be ameliorated during this period with a structured, group-based cognitive behavior intervention.

Method: A 10-week group cognitive behavior stress management intervention that included anxiety reduction (relaxation training), cognitive restructuring, and coping skills training was tested among 199 women newly treated for stage 0-III breast cancer. They were then followed for 1 year after recruitment.

Results: The intervention reduced reports of thought intrusion, interviewer ratings of anxiety, and emotional distress across 1 year significantly more than was seen with the control condition. The beneficial effects were maintained well past the completion of adjuvant therapy.

Conclusions: Structured, group-based cognitive behavior stress management may ameliorate cancer-related anxiety during active medical treatment for breast cancer and for 1 year following treatment. Group-based cognitive behavior stress management is a clinically useful adjunct to offer to women treated for breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy
  • Life Change Events
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychotherapy, Group
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome