Study Investigates Benefits of Mindfulness for Young Patients with Cancer

For young patients with cancer, mindfulness-based interventions are a promising strategy for improving psychosocial well-being, according to a study. These findings were published on Cancer Nursing.

The authors wrote, “Mindfulness-based interventions have demonstrated benefits for adults with chronic illness and are becoming increasingly popular among children and young people. Mindfulness-based interventions could have benefits for young people with cancer throughout the treatment journey, through to survivorship.”

What is Mindfulness?

Mayo Clinic defines mindfulness as “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.”

Mindfulness exercises may include:

  • Breathing exercises and methods
  • Guided imagery exercises
  • Other practices to relax the body and mind

These practices have been shown to support improvements in stress, anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia, and hypertension.

Population and Methods

For this study, the investigators conducted a systematic literature review to evaluate studies that utilized mindfulness interventions for patients aged between 10 and 29 years who were diagnosed with cancer. Six electronic databases were queried, and the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tool was used to assess methodological quality of the studies.

In total, six contemporary studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. In three studies, mindfulness-based practices were adapted to be age appropriate, while other studies modified the interventions based on the cancer-specific needs of the younger patients.

Results and Clinical Takeaways

The researchers found an overall trend of acceptance of formal and informal mindfulness-based exercises among the patients enrolled in the studies. However, the authors note, recruitment of participants was a barrier to program success.

The authors also reported variability in psychosocial outcomes after interventions. Some studies showed patients demonstrated improvements in anxiety levels and social isolation. However, some studies did not record significant benefits.

In summary, the authors wrote, “Mindfulness-based intervention shows promise as an acceptable intervention that may improve psychosocial well-being for young people with cancer. Future research studies with adequate sample sizes are warranted to determine the effectiveness of mindfulness-based intervention among young people with cancer.”

The clinical takeaway of this study, according to the authors, is “Mindfulness-based intervention seems to be a promising approach to promote psychosocial well-being and reduce disease burden in young people with cancer. As validated mindfulness-based intervention may be implemented without expert training, this could be promoted by healthcare providers, including nurses who care for young people with cancer.”