Researchers to Test Compassion Meditation to Improve Health for Breast Cancer Survivors and Their Partners – healthsciences.arizona.edu
TUCSON, Arizona — Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Nursing were recently awarded a $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, for the Breast Cancer Survivors and Partners Online Research Together (SUPORT) project, which will study the effectiveness of compassion meditation to reduce stress and anxiety for breast cancer survivors and their supportive partners.
Evidence suggests that breast cancer survivors often experience increased anxiety, stress, fatigue and social isolation many years after the end of their cancer treatments. Family members who live with breast cancer survivors, including husbands, wives, significant others, partners and adult children, also experience similar quality-of-life changes.
“There is neuroscience research showing that people who meditate over time can actually change their brains and the way their minds work,” said principal investigator Thaddeus Pace, PhD, associate professor in the UArizona College of Nursing. “Cognitively-Based Compassion Training in particular may be really ideal for improving survivors and supportive partners distress because of the way it may change how their minds work, especially in challenging and stressful situation that we all encounter in our social world.”
Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) was developed at the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University. Unlike other meditation programs that focus solely on mindfulness, CBCT is focused on how an individual interconnects with other people, building an ethos of compassion and well-being for the person and for others.
“The idea for this project came from our earlier work with Cognitively-Based Compassion Training with breast cancer survivors several years ago,” Dr. Pace said, adding that researchers including Terry Badger, PhD, RN, Eleanor Bauwens Endowed Chair and professor in the UArizona College of Nursing and UArizona Cancer Center member, have studied the importance of supportive partners for the well-being of cancer survivors for years. “We wanted to expand our use of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training for survivors and partners together.”
Study participants will attend weekly CBCT sessions or Cancer Health Education classes for 10 weeks. Both groups will receive the training online in a format similar to internet-based group exercise classes. Survivors and their supportive partners can participate from anywhere with an internet connection and a computer or large tablet.
While previous studies utilizing meditation have been done in person, the pandemic inspired Dr. Pace and his colleagues to look at a new model utilizing video conferencing systems to expand access.
“The pandemic has made everyone more comfortable with using systems like Zoom, and we started to think it would be really interesting to create a program through Zoom,” Dr. Pace said. “We conducted a pilot study with survivors and partners that worked relatively well, so this project is a continuation of that on a larger scale, allowing survivors and supportive partners to participate coast to coast.”
“The pandemic posed the great challenge of learning how to successfully deliver compassion training online,” said Lobsang …….