Individualised mindfulness-based stress reduction for head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy of curative intent: a descriptive pilot study

Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2017 Mar;26(2). doi: 10.1111/ecc.12474. Epub 2016 Mar 7.


People with head and neck cancer (HNC) experience elevated symptom toxicity and co-morbidity as a result of treatment, which is associated with poorer psychosocial and quality-of-life (QoL) outcomes. This Phase I study examined whether an individualised mindfulness-based stress reduction (IMBSR) programme could be successfully used with HNC patients undergoing curative treatment. Primary aims were to explore feasibility, compliance, acceptability and fidelity. Secondary aims were to determine whether (1) participation in the intervention was associated with changes in post-intervention mindfulness and (2) post-intervention mindfulness was associated with post-intervention distress and QoL. Nineteen HNC patients participated in a seven-session IMBSR programme with pre- and post-test outcome measures of psychological distress, depression, anxiety and QoL. Primary aims were assessed by therapists or participants. Mindfulness, distress and QoL were assessed using self-report questionnaires at pre- and post-intervention. Longer time spent meditating daily was associated with higher post-intervention mindfulness. After controlling for pre-intervention mindfulness, there was an association between higher post-intervention mindfulness and lower psychological distress and higher total, social and emotional QoL. This study offers important preliminary evidence than an IMBSR intervention can be administered to HNC patients during active cancer treatment. A randomised controlled trial is warranted to confirm these findings.

Keywords: head and neck cancer; mindfulness; psychological; quality-of-life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Australia
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / psychology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / psychology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult