The acceptability and potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in improving psychological well-being for adults with advanced cancer: A systematic review

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018 Feb;30:68-78. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.12.014. Epub 2017 Dec 12.


Objective: In spite of supportive care for people affected by cancer being well recognized as a priority for research, there is little solid evidence of the effectiveness of psychological interventions using mindfulness for those with advanced cancer. This systematic review aims to describe, evaluate and synthesize the acceptability and potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for the psychological well-being of people with advanced cancers.

Methods: Eight databases were searched and terms related to advanced stages of cancer and mindfulness were combined systematically to identify relevant published literature. Inclusion criteria were studies with adults only and all types of cancer at stages III and IV. There was considerable variety in the MBI treatment packages including in the extent and centrality of mindfulness in the interventions.

Results: Of 312 identified studies, only 8 included MBIs for people with advanced cancer rather than their families or carers. Results from these studies suggests that MBIs are acceptable and beneficial to the advanced cancer population, improving quality of life, use of mindfulness skills, acceptance of their cancer situation and reduction in depression and anxiety. Some adaptations were recommended however regarding delivery, simplified briefer MBIs, abbreviated session time, flexibility concerning locality of treatment and a minimized questionnaire burden for this group.

Conclusions: MBI packages reviewed in this study had evidence of acceptability and of effectiveness, indicating potential benefit for this population. Individualized, including home-based interventions may be optimal to allow critically ill patients to participate in treatment. In future, MBIs adapted to the needs of various advanced cancer patients are recommended to address the gap in the field and improve health care.

Keywords: Advanced cancer; Cancer stage III; Cancer stage IV; Mindfulness; Oncology; Psychological well-being.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Mindfulness*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*