A new University of Basel study indicates that an online program of counseling and encouragement could reduce psychological stress in newly-diagnosed cancer patients. Photo by Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
Jan. 31 (UPI) -- An eight-week online stress management program dramatically improved the quality of life of cancer patients, according to researchers at the University of Basel.
Their study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncolgy, noted that cancer diagnoses typically bring psychological stress, but patients often do not receive professional psychological support.
The online program, named STREAM, was developed by the university and University Hospital Basel, and provides information, individual exercises, downloadable audio files and strategies for managing cancer. Patients also have a weekly written exchange with a psychiatrist.
Researchers received applications for the study from 222 potential participants, enrolling 129 -- 92 of whom were women treated for breast cancer. The participants were split into two groups, with 65 assigned to an intervention group and 64 assigned to a control group that did not receive access to the program until eight weeks after the study started.
After completion of the program, those who started with access to the online resources rated higher on the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue scale than those in the control group. The intervention group also self-reported less stress and a better quality of life.
"The results show that web-based self-help with regular email contact with a psychologist has the potential to efficiently support newly diagnosed cancer patients and thereby decisively improves cancer care," Dr. Viviane Hess, a professor of medical oncology at the University of Basel, said in a press release.
She added that use of the online program could allow people touched by cancer but unable to seek treatment a new option, and it will also likely help younger "digital natives" who expect an online component to their care.
"Approaches that integrate the Internet into patient care will therefore continue to increase in importance," Hess said.