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CBT 'can safely cut breast cancer side effects'

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a safe and effective remedy for women suffering from the side effects of breast cancer treatment, according to research.

The study, published Online First by The Lancet Oncology, suggests that CBT can be incorporated into breast cancer survivorship programmes and delivered by trained breast cancer nurses.

Researchers revealed that between 65-85% of women experience hot flushes and night sweats (HFNS) as a result of their cancer treatment, which can disrupt sleeping patterns and lead to a lower quality of life.

Although hormone replacement therapy is often undesirable or contraindicated, the new findings indicate that CBT can safely provide sleep and mood benefits.

The research, funded by Cancer Research UK, involved a randomised controlled trial after 96 women suffering with HFNS were recruited from breast clinics in London.

To meet the study’s criteria all the women suffered from a minimum of ten problematic episodes a week as a result of their breast cancer treatment.

Those selected were split into two random groups, with 49 receiving usual care and 47 benefiting from CBT.

Women receiving CBT had a weekly 90-minute session for six weeks, which included paced breathing, psycho-education and cognitive and behavioural methods to control HFNS.

Meanwhile, the women receiving usual care were given access to nurses, oncologists and survivorship telephone support programmes.

The authors, led by Professor Myra Hunter, King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, discovered that CBT significantly reduced HFNS after a nine weeks, with the results being maintained at 26 weeks.

The authors said: “Group CBT seems to be a safe, acceptable, and effective treatment option.”

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