According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, men who received two sessions of stress management before undergoing radical prostatectomy for early-stage prostate cancer reported fewer mood problems before surgery and better quality of life after surgery than men who received usual care.

An estimated one in six men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer over the course of his lifetime. Options for the management of early-stage prostate cancer include “watchful waiting,” more aggressive treatment with radiation or surgery (radical prostatectomy), or participation in a clinical study.

Preparing for cancer treatment can be tremendously stressful. In order to determine whether a presurgical stress management intervention can help men with prostate cancer, researchers conducted a study among 159 men who were preparing to undergo radical prostatectomy for early prostate cancer.

Study participants were assigned to one of three groups:


  1. Stress management: consisted of two 60- to 90-minute individual sessions with a clinical psychologist. The sessions focused on relaxation skills, coping strategies, and discussion of the men’s concerns or fears.
  2. Supportive attention: also consisted of two 60- 90-minute individual sessions with a clinical psychologist, but the main role of the psychologist was to listen and provide empathy.
  3. Standard care: no meeting with a psychologist.

Both before and after surgery, information was collected about the patient’s mood as well as physical and mental aspects of quality of life.

There were no significant differences in outcome between patients assigned to the stress management group and patients assigned to the supportive attention group. Patients assigned to the stress management group did, however, fare better than patients assigned to standard care:


  • Men who received the stress management intervention had fewer mood disturbances prior to surgery than men assigned to standard care.
  • In the year after surgery, men assigned to the stress management intervention scored higher on physical aspects of quality of life than men assigned to standard care.

The researchers conclude: “Our results suggest that providing patients with prostate cancer with a brief stress management intervention before surgery reduces mood disturbance before surgery and may enhance general physical aspects of [quality of life] up to a year after surgery.” The researchers recommend further studies to confirm these findings.

These results provide additional evidence regarding the importance of psychosocial care for patients with cancer.

Reference: Parker PA, Pettaway CA, Babaian RJ et al. The effects of a presurgical stress management intervention for men with prostate cancer undergoing radical prostatectomy. Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. April 6, 2009.

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