The Role of Counselling in Cancer

16 May 2008


(1) Wellisch DK, Hoffman A, Goldman S et al. Depression & anxiety symptoms in women at high risk for breast cancer: pilot study of a group intervention. Am J Psychiatry 1999;156(10):1644-5.

Objective: The psycho-oncology literature to date contains only one outcome study based on a group model for high-risk relatives of breast cancer patients. The authors set out to study the effects of group intervention in high-risk relatives of breast cancer patients. Method: Thirty-three high-risk relatives of breast cancer patients participated in a six-session, 12-hour group intervention model that consisted of educational and psychosocial components. Results: There was a significant reduction of depression symptoms as reported on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Similarly, there was a significant reduction of anxiety symptoms as reported on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory state scale. Conclusions: In this pilot study, the investigators found the group intervention model effective at reducing symptoms of depression and reactive (not chronic) anxiety.

(2) Greer S, Moorey S, Baruch JD et al. Adjuvant psychological therapy for patients with cancer: a prospective randomised trial. BMJ. 1992;304(6828):675-80.

Objective: To determine the effect of adjuvant psychological therapy on the quality of life of patients with cancer. Design: Prospective randomised controlled trial comparing the quality of life of patients receiving psychological therapy with that of patients receiving no therapy, measured before therapy, at eight weeks, and at four months of follow up. Patients: 174 patients aged 18-74 attending hospital with a confirmed diagnosis of malignant disease, a life expectancy of at least 12 months, or scores on various measures of psychological morbidity above previously defined cut off points. Intervention: Adjuvant psychological therapy, a brief, problem focused, cognitive-behavioural treatment programme specifically designed for the needs of individual cancer patients. Main Outcome Measures: Hospital anxiety and depression scale, mental adjustment to cancer scale, Rotterdam symptom checklist, psychosocial adjustment to illness scale. Results: 156 (90%) patients completed the eight week trial; follow up data at four months were obtained for 137 patients (79%). At eight weeks, patients receiving therapy had significantly higher scores than control patients on fighting spirit and significantly lower scores on helplessness, anxious preoccupation, and fatalism; anxiety; psychological symptoms; and on orientation towards health care. These differences indicated improvement in each case. At four months, patients receiving therapy had significantly lower scores than controls on anxiety; psychological symptoms; and psychological distress. Conclusions: Adjuvant psychological therapy produces significant improvement in various measures of psychological distress among cancer patients. The effect of therapy observed at eight weeks persists in some but not all measures at four month follow up.