Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD004253.

Psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer.

Author information

  • 1Department of Primary Care, Swansea Clinical School, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea, Wales, UK, SA2 8PP.



There have been conflicting results from systematic reviews of psychological interventions for patients with cancer, some showing benefits for patients and others not. One early study appeared to show significant survival benefits as well as psychological benefits from a psychological intervention given to women with metastatic breast cancer. Some further studies have been undertaken, again with conflicting results.


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.


We searched the Cochrane Breast Cancer Group Trials Register (September 2003), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2003), MEDLINE (1966-October 2003), CancerLit (1983-2000), CINAHL (1982-October 2003), PsycInfo (1974-November 2003), and SIGLE (1980-November 2003).


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer. Studies were included even if they were not 'intention to treat', owing to the nature of the patient group under study and the likely high loss of follow-up data.


Data were extracted independently by two reviewers. Data about the nature and setting of the intervention, and the relevant outcome data were extracted, along with items relating to methodological quality.


Five primary studies 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 for women with metastatic breast cancer 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).


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.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk