Group Support and Cancer Outcomes
David Spiegel, a psychiatrist, in the 1970's worked under the assumption, that positive psychologic and symptom effects would occur in support groups for women with advanced breast cancer, that had spread throughout the body, without affecting the course of the disease. Little did he know that his work would show that the mind had indeed an effect on physical health.(1)
The above mentioned condition proved to be the grimmest of prognosis. He expected a potential improvement in the quality of life but definitely not an increase in survival time. He wanted to measure the improvement level in the quality of the emotional life for patients who were on "borrowed time." After evaluating the support group, women who participated in the support group survived an average of 18 months longer, almost twice as long as controls who did not participate in the support group. For women at this stage of their disease the added months of live exceeded the time expected from cancer medication. Ten years later, there were only three survivors of the study and all three of them were patients in Mr. Spiegel's support group.
More on the Spiegel study, other studies, and the effects of emotional support on life expectancy up next.
1. Spiegel D., Bloom J. Group Therapy and Hypnosis Reduce Metastatic Breast Carcinoma Pain. Psychosom Med 45(4) (1983):333
1. Spiegel D., et al. Effect of Psychosocial Treatment on Survival of Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Lancet 2(8668) (1989):888