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A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients

Speca, Michael PsyD; Carlson, Linda E. PhD; Goodey, Eileen MSW; Angen, Maureen PhD

Original Articles

Objective The objective of this study was to assess the effects of participation in a mindfulness meditation–based stress reduction program on mood disturbance and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients.

Methods A randomized, wait-list controlled design was used. A convenience sample of eligible cancer patients enrolled after giving informed consent and were randomly assigned to either an immediate treatment condition or a wait-list control condition. Patients completed the Profile of Mood States and the Symptoms of Stress Inventory both before and after the intervention. The intervention consisted of a weekly meditation group lasting 1.5 hours for 7 weeks plus home meditation practice.

Results Ninety patients (mean age, 51 years) completed the study. The group was heterogeneous in type and stage of cancer. Patients’ mean preintervention scores on dependent measures were equivalent between groups. After the intervention, patients in the treatment group had significantly lower scores on Total Mood Disturbance and subscales of Depression, Anxiety, Anger, and Confusion and more Vigor than control subjects. The treatment group also had fewer overall Symptoms of Stress; fewer Cardiopulmonary and Gastrointestinal symptoms; less Emotional Irritability, Depression, and Cognitive Disorganization; and fewer Habitual Patterns of stress. Overall reduction in Total Mood Disturbance was 65%, with a 31% reduction in Symptoms of Stress.

Conclusions This program was effective in decreasing mood disturbance and stress symptoms in both male and female patients with a wide variety of cancer diagnoses, stages of illness, and ages.

From the Department of Psychosocial Resources (M.S., L.E.C., E.G., M.A.), Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Alberta Cancer Board; and Departments of Oncology (M.S.) and Educational Psychology (M.A.), University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Received for publication October 11, 1999;

revision received February 10, 2000.

Address reprint requests to: Dr. Michael Speca, Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, 1331 29 St. NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 4N2. Email:

Copyright © 2000 by American Psychosomatic Society
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