Background: Advanced cancer brings substantial physical and psychosocial challenges that may contribute to emotional distress and diminish well-being. In this study, we present preliminary data concerning the effectiveness of a new brief individual psychotherapy, Managing Cancer And Living Meaningfully (CALM), designed to help individuals cope with this circumstance.
Aim: To test the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of CALM to reduce emotional distress and promote psychological well-being and growth.
Design: CALM is a brief, manualized, semi-structured individual psychotherapy for patients with advanced cancer. This study employed a phase 2 intervention-only design. The primary outcome was depressive symptoms and the secondary outcomes were death anxiety, attachment security, spiritual well-being and psychological growth. These were assessed at 3 months (t1) and 6 months (t2). Multilevel regression was used to model change over time.
Setting/participants: A total of 50 patients with advanced or metastatic cancer were recruited from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto, Canada.
Results: A total of 39 patients (78%) were assessed at baseline, 24 (48%) at t1, and 16 (32%) at t2. Analyses revealed reductions over time in depressive symptoms: beta = -0.13, confidence interval (CI.95) = (-0.23, -0.022) and death anxiety: beta = -0.23, CI.95 (-0.40, -0.061); and an increase in spiritual well-being: beta = 0.14, CI.95 (0.026, 0.26).
Conclusions: CALM may be a feasible intervention to benefit patients with advanced cancer. The results are encouraging, despite attrition and small effect sizes, and support further study.
Keywords: Affective symptoms; cancer; death anxiety; depression; palliative care; pilot trial; psychotherapy.