A pilot study evaluating the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychological status, physical status, salivary cortisol, and interleukin-6 among advanced-stage cancer patients and their caregivers

J Holist Nurs. 2012 Sep;30(3):170-85. doi: 10.1177/0898010111435949. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Purpose: To investigate whether a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for cancer (MBSR-C) improved psychological and physical symptoms, quality of life (QOL), and stress markers among advanced-stage cancer patients and caregivers.

Design: A pilot within-subject design was used.

Method: Patients previously diagnosed with advanced-stage breast, colon, lung, or prostate cancer and on treatment were recruited from the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. Twenty-six patient-caregiver dyads completed a modified 6-week, self-study MBSR-C program based on the Kabat-Zinn model. Psychological and physical symptoms and QOL were compared pre- and post-MBSR-C sessions. Salivary cortisol and interleukin-6 were assessed pre- and post-MBSR-C session at 1, 3, and 6 weeks.

Findings: Following the 6-week MBSR program, patients showed improvements in stress and anxiety (p < .05); caregivers' psychological and QOL also improved but were not statistically significant. Both patients and caregivers had decreases in cortisol at Weeks 1 and 3 (p < .05) but not at Week 6. Similar to cortisol levels at Week 6, salivary interleukin-6 levels were lower overall (before/after an MBSR-C session), compared with Week 1 for patients and caregivers.

Conclusions: MBSR-C may be a beneficial intervention for reducing stress, anxiety, cortisol levels, and symptoms in advanced-stage cancer patients and may also benefit caregivers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Self Care / methods
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-6
  • Hydrocortisone