Empirical Support For Mbsr In Cancer Survivors

Our first study of MBSR specifically for cancer patients was also the first published in the scientific literature, in the year 2000, so this area is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, a growing body of empirical support indicates that MBSR may be helpful to survivors in ways that would theoretically be expected. A recent review paper of MBSR studies in cancer95 joins several prior review papers which document what is known about the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions within diverse patient populations.96-98 The following overview is structured to coincide with the four categories of symptoms pertinent to cancer patients described in the first section.

The review will highlight specific aspects of a conceptual model presented in Figure 1. This model, guiding our thinking about the role of MBSR in a health psychology context, is based on a general biobehavioral or biopsychosocial approach. A number of authors have published similar models99-101—Figure 1 is our adaptation, specific to MBSR, showing in simple terms our understanding ofinteractions among a number of key elements, many of which we have already discussed in this chapter. It includes the influence of psychological, social and biological background variables

Figure 1. Biobehavioral Model of MBSR.

such as temperament, social support, and heredity, as well as health behaviors such as diet, exercise and smoking, on health outcomes. These factors interact with the experience of life stress, which can in turn influence neuroendocrine, immune and cardiovascular processes that effect disease course and recovery. The MBSR intervention can act through mindfulness to affect psychological processes as indicated, and change health behaviors, both of which may impact biological processes. These in turn affect disease processes and subsequent morbidity and mortality.

This model serves to indicate potential pathways and mechanisms through which psychosocial interventions, particularly MBSR, may influence health. It also summarizes the findings of a number of lines of research, including our own—other theoretical associations are indicated which have not yet been empirically tested.

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