A cancer diagnosis is bad enough, but it often kicks off high stress levels that significantly diminish a patient’s quality of life. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found nearly 32% of patients newly diagnosed with cancer developed mental disorders related to the diagnosis.
A more recent controlled intervention study published in the same journal in 2017 explored the effect of online stress management with cancer patients. The researchers found that patients assigned to web-based stress management with the STREAM program suffered significantly less than a control group with no intervention (who were placed on a waitlist). A total of 129 newly diagnosed patients with cancer were randomly assigned. The intervention group consisted of 65 people, and the control group had 64 members. The intervention group members spent an average of 13.3 minutes per week online with patients providing one-to-one support in a 12-week program with eight modules. By the end of the test period, 80% of the intervention group patients used six of the eight modules, which was considered a good adherence rate by the study’s authors. The test group’s quality of life scored higher than the control group on a Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue measurement instrument, and the intervention group’s distress scores were significantly lower on the Distress Thermometer assessment. Following the first 12-weeks, the control group received the same intervention program and also showed increased the quality of life even after a delay.
The conclusion of this study is inescapable: web-based online stress management effectively improves quality of life for cancer patients. Cancer patients are often without support resources to cope with the highly stressful diagnosis. Even if it’s not possible or convenient for the patient to attend live stress management sessions, web-based programs can also result in less distress.