Mindfulness-based stress reduction among breast cancer survivors: a literature review and discussion

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2011 Mar;38(2):E61-71. doi: 10.1188/11.ONF.E61-E71.


Purpose/objectives: To evaluate and discuss existing studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) among breast cancer survivors.

Data sources: Articles published from 1987-2009 were retrieved using MEDLINE®, CINAHL®, Ovid, and Scopus. Key words, including mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness meditation, were combined with breast cancer.

Data synthesis: The search resulted in 26 articles that were narrowed down to 16 by selecting only quantitative studies of MBSR conducted with breast cancer (n = 7) or heterogeneous types of cancer in which the predominant cancer was breast cancer (n = 9). Most studies were one-group pre- and post-test design and examined the effect of MBSR on psychological outcomes. Overall, the studies had large effect sizes on perceived stress and state anxiety and medium effect sizes on symptoms of stress and mood disturbance. Four studies measured biologic outcomes and had small effect sizes, except cytokine production, which showed a large effect size at 6- and 12-month follow-ups.

Conclusions: Future studies using randomized, control trials and longitudinal, repeated-measures designs are needed. Studies conducted with heterogeneous types of cancer and gender should be analyzed and the results reported separately.

Implications for nursing: The comprehensive summary and critical discussion of existing studies of MBSR usage among breast cancer survivors provide essential information that can be used by nurses and others working in the healthcare setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Oncology Nursing / methods*
  • Stress, Psychological / nursing*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology