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February 2, 2011

Mind Matters in Cancer Survival

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.

JAMA. 2011;305(5):502-503. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.69

Modern medicine has focused so intently on fighting disease that it has overlooked a natural ally in the battle—the patient's personal mental management of the stresses associated with cancer. Even at the end of life, helping patients face death, make informed decisions, mobilize social support, and control pain is not only humane but also may be medically more effective than simply continuing aggressive anticancer treatment. For example, in a randomized clinical trial of palliative care for non–small cell lung cancer,1 patients who received an average of 4 visits that focused on choices about resuscitation preferences, pain control, and quality of life lived longer than those who received standard anticancer care (median survival, 11.65 vs 8.9 months; P = .02). This apparently counterintuitive finding suggests that emotional support is not only psychologically beneficial but also medically efficacious. Moreover, the palliative care intervention also improved the quality of life by reducing depression.1