Psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer

Adrian G.K. Edwards, Nicholas Hulbert-Williams, Richard D. Neal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Systematic reviews of psychological interventions for patients with cancer are conflicting, some showing benefits for patients and others not. One early study appeared to show significant survival and psychological benefits from a psychological intervention given to women with metastatic breast cancer. Subsequent studies have however demonstrated conflicting results. Objectives: To assess the effects of psychological interventions (educational, individual cognitive behavioural or psychotherapeutic, or group support) on psychological and survival outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer. Search strategy: For this update, the Cochrane Breast Cancer Group Specialised Register was searched (September 2007). Also searched were MEDLINE (1966-September 2006), CINAHL (1982-September 2006), PsycInfo (1974-September 2006), and SIGLE (1980-September 2006). Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer. Studies which were not t 'intention to treat' were included owing to the nature of the patient group under study and the likely high loss of follow-up data. Data collection and analysis: Data were extracted independently by two reviewers. Data about the nature and setting of the intervention, relevant outcome data and items relating to methodological quality were extracted. Main results: Five primary studies (511 women) were identified all group psychological interventions. Two of these were cognitive behavioural interventions and three evaluated support-expressive group therapy. The five studies of group psychological therapies showed very limited evidence of benefit arising from these interventions. Although there was evidence of short-term benefit for some psychological outcomes, in general these were not sustained at follow-up. A clearer pattern of psychological outcomes could not be discerned as a wide variety of outcome measures and durations of follow-up were used in the included studies. The possible longer survival times in women allocated to receive psychological intervention in the early study have not been replicated in the subsequent four studies (including one by members of the first study group), and overall the effects of these interventions on survival are not statistically significant (for example, odds ratio for 5 year survival 0.83 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.53 - 1.28). Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to advocate that group psychological therapies (either cognitive behavioural or supportive-expressive) should be made available to all women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Any benefits of the interventions are only evident for some of the psychological outcomes and in the short term. The possibility of the interventions causing harm is not ruled out by the available data.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD004253
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2008


  • *Psychotherapy
  • Adult
  • Breast neoplasms [*psychology]
  • Female
  • Humans


Dive into the research topics of 'Psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this