Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as supportive therapy in cancer care: systematic review


  • Joanna E. Smith BA MSc,

  • Janet Richardson BSc PhD RN RNT CPsychol PGCE,

  • Caroline Hoffman BSW RGN,

  • Karen Pilkington BPharm DipInfSci MSc PCME MPharm

Janet Richardson,
Faculty of Health and Social Work,
University of Plymouth,
Portland Square,
Drake Circus,
Plymouth PL4 8AA,
E-mail: janet.richardson@plymouth.ac.uk


Aim.  This paper reports a systematic review and critical appraisal of the evidence on the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for cancer supportive care.

Background.  The experience of cancer can have a negative impact on both psychological and physical health and on quality of life. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a therapy package that has been used with patients with a variety of conditions. In order to draw conclusions on its effectiveness for cancer patients, the evidence requires systematic assessment.

Methods.  A comprehensive search of major biomedical and specialist complementary medicine databases was conducted. Additionally, efforts were made to identify unpublished and ongoing research. Relevant research was categorized by study type and appraised according to study design. Clinical commentaries were obtained for each study and included in the review.

Results.  Three randomized controlled clinical trials and seven uncontrolled clinical trials were found. A lack of relevant qualitative research studies was identified. Studies report positive results, including improvements in mood, sleep quality and reductions in stress. A dose-response effect has been observed between practice of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and improved outcome. A number of methodological limitations were identified. Modifications to the traditional Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme make comparison between studies difficult and a lack of controlled studies precludes any firm conclusion on efficacy.

Conclusion.  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has potential as a clinically valuable self-administered intervention for cancer patients. Further research into its efficacy, feasibility and safety for cancer patients in the nursing context is recommended.