Digital stress management in cancer: Testing StressProffen in a 12-month randomized controlled trial

Cancer. 2022 Apr 1;128(7):1503-1512. doi: 10.1002/cncr.34046. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


Background: Cognitive-behavioral stress management interventions are associated with improved psychological well-being for cancer survivors. The availability of, access to, and outreach of these in-person interventions are limited, however. The current study, therefore, evaluated the efficacy of StressProffen, a digital application (app)-based stress management intervention for cancer survivors, in a 12-month randomized controlled trial.

Methods: Cancer survivors 1 year or less after their treatment (N = 172) were randomized to the StressProffen intervention (n = 84) or a usual-care control group (n = 88). The intervention was delivered in a simple blended care model: 1) 1 in-person introduction session, 2) 10 app-based cognitive-behavioral stress management modules, and 3) 2 follow-up phone calls. Stress (Perceived Stress Scale), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), self-regulatory fatigue (Self-Regulatory Fatigue 18), and health-related quality of life (HRQOL; RAND-36) were examined at the baseline and at 6 and 12 months. Generalized linear models for repeated measures were fitted to compare effects over time.

Results: Participants were mainly female (82%), had a mean age of 52 years (standard deviation, 11.3 years; range, 20-78 years), and had a variety of cancer types (mostly breast cancer [48%]). Over the 12-month study time, the intervention group reported significantly decreased stress (P < .001), depression (P = .003), and self-regulatory fatigue (P = .002) as well as improved HRQOL (for 6 of 8 domains, P ≤ .015) in comparison with controls. The largest favored effects for the intervention group were observed at 6 months: stress (estimated mean difference [MD], -5.1; P < .001), anxiety (MD, -1.4; P = .015), depression (MD, -2.1; P < .001), self-regulatory fatigue (MD, -4.9; P < .001), and HRQOL (7 of 8 domains; P ≤ .037).

Conclusions: Digital stress management interventions such as StressProffen have the potential to extend the outreach of psychological interventions and provide easily available and effective psychosocial support for cancer survivors.

Keywords: cancer survivors; cognitive behavioral; electronic health (eHealth); mobile applications; psycho-oncology; psychological distress; stress management.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Cancer Survivors* / psychology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy
  • Quality of Life