Cancer is a disease that feeds on stress. Take away stress, and the battle becomes easier. This was the premise of a study done by the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine in Philadelphia, in which breast cancer patients were asked to participate in a program that combined art therapy with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  

The study, which appears in the journal Stress and Health and reported on ScienceDaily.com, involved 18 breast cancer patients randomly assigned to either an education program control group or to the Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) program, which included MBSR in the curriculum. The MBAT, which asked patients to express themselves through art, was combined with MBSR’s collection of exercises that promoted awareness of breathing and emotions, as well as mindful yoga, eating, walking, and listening.  

Researchers measured each patient’s response with a 90-symptom checklist that was filled out before and after the eight-week program. Cerebral blood flow, which was indicative of brain activity, was also monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The results showed that the participants who were in the MBAT group had more brain activity than those from the control group. Centers of the brain which controlled stress and emotions showed increased activity, which in turn lowered stress and anxiety.  

This goes to show that a cancer patient needs more than just medical assistance; her emotional and mental state must also be processed in order for her to have a more positive view on her situation. If a loved one is fighting the Big C, make sure to try your best to take stress out of the equation with activities that promote self-value and self-expression. This way, her main focus will be on getting well.

(Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr Creative Commons)

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