Harvard Men's Health Watch

Meditation may ease anxiety from active surveillance

In the Journals

Men who follow the treatment strategy known as active surveillance for their prostate cancer may lower their anxiety and embrace healthier habits if they practice mindfulness meditation. Active surveillance is an option for men with low-risk prostate cancer that involves monitoring their condition through regular exams and tests. It is used to avoid or delay the need for radiation therapy or surgery.

One drawback to this approach is the anxiety of not knowing the eventual outcome, which can lead men to seek unnecessary treatments. In fact, one in four men with prostate cancer receive radiation or surgery within one to three years of his diagnosis even when there is no sign of tumor growth.

One way to combat this anxiety is with meditation, according to a study published online May 3, 2016, by Psycho-Oncology. In the pilot study, 24 men followed an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program that met weekly for two-and-a-half-hour sessions. Self-reported questionnaires showed that the men doing MBSR had less anxiety about their prostate cancer after eight weeks, six months, and a year. The meditators also had a high post-traumatic growth response—a reaction common among cancer patients in which they become more attentive to healthy lifestyle changes, says lead researcher Dr. David Victorson of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.