Pre-surgical stress management boosts PCa patients' immune function

February 17, 2011

Practicing stress management techniques before prostate cancer surgery may help activate the body's immune response, leading to quicker recovery and lower mood disturbances, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

Practicing stress management techniques before prostate cancer surgery may help activate the body’s immune response, leading to quicker recovery and lower mood disturbances, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

"Men who face prostatectomy as treatment for prostate cancer often have high stress levels about the procedure and the potential effects on their quality of life," said first author Lorenzo Cohen, PhD. "Both the physical and psychological stress of surgery can be harmful to the immune system. Even brief pre-surgery sessions of stress management positively impact on the recovery process, both in terms of psychological and immunological outcomes."

In the study, which was published online in Psychosomatic Medicine (Jan. 21, 2011), 159 men with early-stage prostate cancer who were scheduled for radical prostatectomy were randomized into three groups: stress management, supportive attention, and standard care. Blood samples were collected from each patient about 1 month before surgery and 48 hours after surgery. Patient mood was measured 1 month before surgery, 1 week before surgery, and the morning of the surgery.

Two days after surgery, the men in the stress management group had significantly higher levels of cytokines than men in the supportive attention group, higher levels of the cytokine IL-1b than men in the standard care group, and increased immune system parameters, which decreased or stayed the same for the other two groups.

"This study and evidence from other studies show that psychological intervention before an acute stressor can be beneficial to patients," Dr. Cohen said. "The implications are that managing stress has biological as well as psychological benefits and might have an effect on aspects of disease."