Cognitive distraction and relaxation training for the control of side effects due to cancer chemotherapy

J Behav Med. 1993 Feb;16(1):65-80. doi: 10.1007/BF00844755.


Sixty cancer chemotherapy patients were randomly assigned to one of six conditions formed by a 3(cognitive distraction, relaxation training, no intervention) x 2(high anxiety, low anxiety) factorial design. All patients were followed for five consecutive chemotherapy sessions. Outcome measures included patient reports, nurse observations, and physiological indices. Results indicated that distraction patients reported less nausea prior to chemotherapy and lower systolic blood pressures after chemotherapy than controls. Relaxation training patients reported less nausea prior to chemotherapy and exhibited lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures after chemotherapy than control patients. There were no significant differences between distraction and relaxation training patients on any measure. Patients with high initial levels of anxiety exhibited continually elevated levels of distress throughout the chemotherapy experience; however, anxiety level did not interact with the effectiveness of the treatment interventions. Overall, the data support the use of both cognitive distraction and relaxation training for reducing the distress of chemotherapy with both high and low-anxiety patients and suggest that at least some of the effects of relaxation training can be achieved with distraction alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Attention*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Personality Assessment
  • Play and Playthings
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Vomiting, Anticipatory / psychology
  • Vomiting, Anticipatory / therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents