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Cancer. 2011 Nov 1;117(21):4993-5002. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26110. Epub 2011 Apr 8.

Feasibility of an expressive-disclosure group intervention for post-treatment colorectal cancer patients: results of the Healthy Expressions study.

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Department of Behavioral Science, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77230-1439, USA.



Adjusting to cancer requires effective cognitive and emotional processing. Written and verbal disclosure facilitate processing and have been studied independently in cancer survivors. Combined written and verbal expression may be more effective than either alone, particularly for patients with difficult to discuss or embarrassing side effects. Thus, the authors developed and tested the efficacy of a 12-session combined written and verbal expression group program for psychologically distressed colorectal cancer (CRC) patients.


Forty post-treatment patients with CRC (stages I-III) identified as psychologically distressed using the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) were randomized to an intervention group (Healthy Expressions; n = 25) or standard care (control group; n = 15). Assessments were completed at baseline, Month 2, and Month 4 (postintervention). Primary outcomes were psychological functioning and quality of life (QOL).


Most participants were women (63%), white (63%), and non-Hispanic (75%). The Healthy Expressions group demonstrated significantly greater changes in distress compared with the control group at Month 2 on the BSI Global Severity Index (GSI) and the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D) scores (P < .05 for each); differences in the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) global QOL scores approached significance (P = .063). The BSI GSI and Positive Symptom Total, CES-D, and EORTC emotional functioning subscale scores were all significant at Month 4 (P < .05 for each).


The Healthy Expressions program improved psychological functioning in CRC patients who reported experiencing distress. Findings demonstrate the program's feasibility and provide strong support for conducting a larger randomized trial.

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