Studies Failing to Replicate Spiegel's Results
Another study done on the effects of group psychological support was conducted in 2001.(1) The goal was to the determine survival time with metastatic breast cancer and group support. 235 women were entered into a supportive-expressive group (n=158) or the control group (n=77).
Therapy was conducted for one year with 90 minute sessions. Women were told to express feelings about their cancer and how it impacted their lives. The control group did not receive any psychological therapy. When compared to Spiegel's study, the two groups did not differ in survival times (17.9 versus 17.6 [even though statistical insignificant, the added .3 months might make a big difference in someone's life.]) Also women in the therapy group seemed to have improved mood and better control over pain than those in the control group. Drawback of this study was that only 9% of eligible women were RANDOMLY assigned, leaving generalization of the findings limited. Furthermore, in this study, the women were not instructed in hypnosis.
Yet another study, conducted in 1993(2), showed also no improvements in life extension. It compared 34 women with breast cancer who attended weekly cancer support, individual counseling, or family therapy to 102 women with breast cancer who had not participated in such activities. The study was conducted via a matched, retrospective survey. Again counseling may have had an impact on the quality of life, but had no impact on the length of life. The difference in this study and Spiegel's study was that it used group support, meditation, and imagery for pain control and Spiegel's study emphasized personal relationships and hypnosis.
When these studies are compared several observations can be made. Even though identical, if different approaches are used, different results are the outcome. Furthermore, the original Spiegel study included hypnosis, a targeted from of intervention, which might offer the most promising changes in patients. The addition of hypnosis to the Spiegel study may have improved participant's feelings of self control, hence contributing to a better outcome.(3) More on hypnosis, its history, and scientific research in upcoming posts.
1. Goodwin P., et al. The Effects of Group Psychosocial Support on Survival in Metastatic Breast Cancer. New Engl J Med 345:1719. (2001)
2. Gellert G., Maxwell R., Siegal B. Survival of Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Adjunctive Psychosocial Support Therapy: a 10-Year-Follow-Up Study. J Clin Oncol 11(1):66. (1993)
3. Kalt H. Psychoneuroimmunology: An Interpretation of Experimental and Case Study Evidence Towards a Paradigm for Predictable Results. Am J Clin Hypn 43:41. (2000)