A Pragmatic Evaluation of Symptom Distress After Group Meditation for Cancer Patients and Caregivers: A Preliminary Report

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2018 May;55(5):1321-1326.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2018.01.018. Epub 2018 Feb 5.


Context: Complementary health approaches such as meditation may help improve cancer patient and caregiver symptoms, yet little research has examined the clinical application of these programs.

Objectives: We explored the effects of a meditation group class, offered as part of an integrative medicine clinic at a comprehensive cancer center, on patient and caregiver self-reported symptoms.

Methods: Participants (patients and caregivers) of any three meditation group classes offered-Power of Breath (PB), Sacred Sounds (SS), and Movement & Breath (MB)-were asked to complete the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS; scale 0-10, 10 most severe) before and after participation. ESAS individual items and subscales were analyzed; distress subscales included global (global distress score 0-90), physical (physical distress score 0-60), and psychological (psychological distress score, 0-20). Data were analyzed examining premeditation/postmeditation scores using paired t-tests and between types of meditation using analyses of variance.

Results: One hundred forty-two unique participants (76 patients and 66 caregivers) attended one or more meditation groups (mean 1.84) from May to December 2015 (265 total attendance: PB n = 92; SS n = 87; MB n = 86). For all participants, we observed clinically significant reduction/improvement in global distress scores (-5.17, SD 8; P < 0.0001) and in individual symptoms (ESAS decrease ≥ 1; means) of well-being (-1.36 SD 1.7; P < 0.0001), fatigue (-1.34 SD 1.9; P < 0.0001), anxiety (-1.26 SD 1.6; P < 0.001), and shortness of breath (-1.2 SD 2; P = 0.001). Comparing class length (60 vs. 90 minutes), class content (PB vs. SS vs. MB), and participants (caregivers vs. patients), there were no statistically significant differences in symptom score reduction.

Conclusion: A single meditation group class offered as part of clinical care resulted in relief of multiple self-reported symptoms in both patients and caregivers.

Keywords: Integrative medicine; caregivers; complementary health approaches; meditation; self-reported outcomes; symptoms.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Preliminary Data
  • Self Report
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult