Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Late Post-Treatment Pain in Women Treated for Primary Breast Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Clin Oncol. 2016 Oct 1;34(28):3390-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.65.0770. Epub 2016 Jun 20.


Purpose: To assess the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for late post-treatment pain in women treated for primary breast cancer.

Methods: A randomized wait list-controlled trial was conducted with 129 women treated for breast cancer reporting post-treatment pain (score ≥ 3 on pain intensity or pain burden assessed with 10-point numeric rating scales). Participants were randomly assigned to a manualized 8-week MBCT program or a wait-list control group. Pain was the primary outcome and was assessed with the Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire 2 (SF-MPQ-2), the Present Pain Intensity subscale (the McGill Pain Questionnaire), and perceived pain intensity and pain burden (numeric rating scales). Secondary outcomes were quality of life (World Health Organization-5 Well-Being Index), psychological distress (the Hospital Depression and Anxiety Scale), and self-reported use of pain medication. All outcome measures were assessed at baseline, postintervention, and 3-month and 6-month follow-up. Treatment effects were evaluated with mixed linear models.

Results: Statistically significant time × group interactions were found for pain intensity (d = 0.61; P = .002), the Present Pain Intensity subscale (d = 0.26; P = .026), the SF-MPQ-2 neuropathic pain subscale (d = 0.24; P = .036), and SF-MPQ-2 total scores (d = 0.23; P = .036). Only pain intensity remained statistically significant after correction for multiple comparisons. Statistically significant effects were also observed for quality of life (d = 0.42; P = .028) and nonprescription pain medication use (d = 0.40; P = .038). None of the remaining outcomes reached statistical significance.

Conclusion: MBCT showed a statistically significant, robust, and durable effect on pain intensity, indicating that MBCT may be an efficacious pain rehabilitation strategy for women treated for breast cancer. In addition, the effect on neuropathic pain, a pain type reported by women treated for breast cancer, further suggests the potential of MBCT but should be considered preliminary.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01674881.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management / methods*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01674881