Mindful meditation helps men cope with active surveillance anxiety in prostate cancer

According to a recently published pilot study from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, men with prostate cancer who are under close medical surveillance reported significantly greater resilience and less anxiety over time after receiving an intervention of mindfulness meditation.

Even when there is no sign of tumor progression, the anxiety and uncertainty that men who choose active surveillance experience when diagnosed with prostate cancer causes one in four to receive definitive therapies within one to three years.

One researcher focusing on the emotional stress of active surveillance and how mindfulness training helps alleviate the anxiety is Health psychologist David Victorson, the principal investigator of the study and an associate professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dating back some 2,500 years, mindfulness meditation is a well-known contemplative awareness practice. This form of meditation is designed to develop the skill of paying attention to patients’ inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and compassion.

Victorson said, “It’s very understandable that some men will feel concerned with the knowledge that they indeed have prostate cancer but are asked to NOT do anything to remove it. For many men this can create a great deal of inner turmoil. This turmoil can build up over time and eventually lead to men to seek surgical intervention when it may not ultimately be necessary.”

Now partnering with other academic medical institutions, Victorson and his Northwestern team are conducting a five-year multi-site controlled trial where men and their spouses will be randomized to eight weeks of intensive mindfulness meditation training or an eight-week control group.

According to Mr. Victorson, “I believe we have an opportunity to investigate and equip men with additional tools above and beyond surgical intervention that can help them manage cancer-related uncertainty intolerance.”

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