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.