Psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer

Mohammed Mustafa*, Andrew Carson-Stevens, David Gillespie, Adrian G K Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

49 Citations (Scopus)


Psychological symptoms are associated with metastatic breast cancer. This is the basis for exploring the impact of psychological interventions on psychosocial and survival outcomes. One early study appeared to show significant survival and psychological benefits from psychological support while subsequent studies have revealed conflicting results. This review is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2004 and previously updated in 2007. To assess the effects of psychological interventions on psychosocial and survival outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer. We searched the Cochrane Breast Cancer Group Specialised Register, MEDLINE (OvidSP), EMBASE (OvidSP), PsycINFO (OvidSP), CINAHL (EBSCO), online trials and research registers in June/July 2011. Further potentially relevant studies were identified from handsearching references of previous trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses.  Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster RCTs of psychological interventions, which recruited women with metastatic breast cancer. Outcomes selected for analyses were overall survival, psychological outcomes, pain, quality of life, condition-specific outcome measures, relationship and social support measures, and sleep quality. Studies were excluded if no discrete data were available on women with metastatic breast cancer.  Two review authors independently extracted the data and assessed the quality of the studies using the Cochrane Collaboration risk of bias tool. Where possible, authors were contacted for missing information. Data on the nature and setting of the intervention, relevant outcome data, and items relating to methodological quality were extracted. Meta-analyses was performed using a random-effects or fixed-effect Mantel-Haenszel model, depending on expected levels of heterogeneity. Ten RCTs with 1378 women were identified. Of the seven RCTs on group psychological interventions, three were on cognitive behavioural therapy and four were on supportive-expressive group therapy. The remaining three studies were individual based and the types of psychological interventions were not common to either cognitive behavioural or supportive-expressive therapy. A clear pattern of psychological outcomes could not be discerned as a wide variety of outcome measures and durations of follow-up were used in the included studies. The overall effect of the psychological interventions across six studies, on one-year survival, favoured the psychological intervention group with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.46 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.07 to 1.99). Pooled data from four studies did not show any survival benefit at five-years follow-up (OR 1.03, 95% CI 0.42 to 2.52). There was evidence of a short-term benefit for some psychological outcomes and improvement in pain scores. Psychological interventions appear to be effective in improving survival at 12 months but not at longer-term follow-up, and they are effective in reducing psychological symptoms only in some of the outcomes assessed in women with metastatic breast cancer. However, findings of the review should be interpreted with caution as there is a relative lack of data in this field, and the included trials had reporting or methodological weaknesses and were heterogeneous in terms of interventions and outcome measures.  

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)i-70
Number of pages72
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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