Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Stress and Fatigue in Cancer Patients and Survivors

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Kylie Marie Straub, SN
School of Nursing, Carroll University, Waukesha, WI, USA

Background: Cancer patients and survivors experience numerous hardships throughout treatment and remission, including fatigue and stress. Cancer-related fatigue is a very prevalent issue that plagues cancer survivors and patients. Several studies have indicated mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a training program that focuses on meditation, breathing exercises, and other activities to promote mindfulness, as a possible choice of treatment for the challenges faced by cancer patients and survivors. There are numerous gaps in the literature concerning the indications for MBSR and the populations that may benefit from the program. MBSR is an eight week program taught by trained professionals. The program was derived from the recommendations of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of MBSR. He emphasized MBSR as a method that should be incorporated into everyday life, not just when stressful events occur. Both fatigue and stress were examined as outcome variables. There is a need to determine effective interventions for these issues that cancer patients and survivors face.

Purpose: The purpose of this review was to analyze the current state of evidence on the effects of MBSR on fatigue and stress levels in cancer patients and survivors.

Method: To locate relevant articles, a computerized database search was conducted. The three databases searched included CINAHL, PUBMED, and a combined database search of MEDLINE plus Academic Search and Health Source. The search terms and Boolean operators used were “cancer OR oncology patients,” “stress OR anxiety AND fatigue,” and “‘mindfulness based stress reduction’ OR MBSR.” Other search parameters included were studies that had a publication date between the years 2006 and 2016, were available in the English language, were peer-reviewed, and were conducted on humans only.

Results: From the results of the studies reviewed, two themes emerged: a reduction in stress and anxiety and a reduction in fatigue. Several studies in this review concluded that MBSR can decrease stress and anxiety levels, as well as potentially improve other aspects of life. Researchers found a decrease in the fear of recurrence of cancer in participants who practiced MBSR. They also discovered an enhancement in the quality of life in interventions groups that participated in MBSR, and that MBSR training assisted participants in identifying stressors and using this awareness to reduce the ramifications on the quality of their lives. Several studies also pointed out potential barriers to the implementation of MBSR. Some challenges that participants faced were a lack of motivation and becoming distracted easily. To address barriers of MBSR, informing participants about the potential challenges should be done before training starts. It has been recommended by several researchers that MBSR may be used to assist cancer patients in reducing their stress levels and improving clinical outcomes.

Conclusion: There is evidence from these studies that suggests MBSR is an effective method for reducing fatigue and anxiety felt by cancer patients and survivors. MBSR may be an important intervention to help cancer patients and survivors who are struggling with anxiety or fatigue.