Purpose: This study assessed the feasibility of a meditation-based program called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) with breast cancer survivors. Enrollment and participant satisfaction with a novel intervention, adherence to program requirements, and differences between the intervention group and wait list controls on self-report measures were also assessed. Additionally, cortisol, a stress-related endocrine biomarker, was assessed.
Methods: Participants (n = 33) were randomly assigned to CBCT or the wait list. CBCT provided eight weekly, 2-h classes and a "booster" CBCT session 4 weeks later. CBCT participants were expected to attend classes and meditate between classes at least three times per week. Pre-/post-intervention and follow-up questionnaires measured symptom change (depression, intrusive thoughts, perceived stress, fear of cancer recurrence, fatigue/vitality, loneliness, and quality of life). Saliva samples were collected at the same periods to assess the slope of diurnal cortisol activity.
Results: Enrollment, class attendance, home practice time, and patient satisfaction exceeded expectations. Compared to controls, post-intervention, the CBCT group showed suggestions of significant improvements in depression, avoidance of intrusive thoughts, functional impairment associated with fear of recurrence, mindfulness, and vitality/fatigue. At follow-up, less perceived stress and higher mindfulness were also significant in the CBCT group. No significant changes were observed on any other measure including diurnal cortisol activity.
Conclusions: Within the limits of a pilot feasibility study, results suggest that CBCT is a feasible and highly satisfactory intervention potentially beneficial for the psychological well-being of breast cancer survivors. However, more comprehensive trials are needed to provide systematic evidence.
Relevance: CBCT may be very beneficial for improving depression and enhancing well-being during breast cancer survivorship.
Keywords: Breast cancer; Compassion; Depression; Fear of cancer recurrence; Meditation; Stress; Survivorship.