Study Shows that Cancer-Related PTSD Can Be Reduced by Cognitive-Behavior Therapy by Phone

Cognitive-behavior therapy given over the phone has been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms in survivors of stem cell transplants.

New York, NY
 – October 6, 2010 /Press Release/  –– 

Mount Sinai researchers have found that cognitive-behavior therapy given over the phone reduces post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in survivors of stem cell transplants. The NIH-funded study, conducted by investigators from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Hackensack University Medical Center, details the first cognitive-behavior program to specifically look at PTSD in stem cell transplant survivors. It appeared in the August 2010 issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"A large number of stem cell transplant survivors – about 41 percent – experience symptoms of PTSD up to 10 years after the transplantation, including intrusive thoughts, avoiding reminders of illness experiences, and physiological responses to reminders of their illness," said William H. Redd, PhD, Professor of Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and principal investigator of the study. “Many also have physical impairments or mobility issues that would prevent them from traveling to receive traditional PTSD treatment.”

"Cognitive-behavior therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing depression and anxiety among early-stage breast cancer patients, military veterans and survivors of sexual assault. Our study was designed to test the efficacy of administering that therapy in a way that’s more useful to survivors of stem cell transplants. The results have been very promising," said Dr. Redd.

Dr. Redd, in collaboration with Katherine DuHamel, PhD, a health psychologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Larissa Labay, PsyD, a psychologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, studied 89 patients suffering from PTSD who received a stem cell transplant one to three years prior to enrolling in the study. Study participants were randomly assigned to receive either telephone-based cognitive behavior therapy (T-CBT) or standard follow-up assessments without therapy.

Those in the telephone therapy group participated in 10 sessions over a period of 10 to 15 weeks. The sessions included education on illness-related PTSD symptoms, self-monitoring of attitudes, enhancement of social support through training in communication skills, and relaxation training.

Follow up assessments conducted six, nine and 12 months after the initial assessment showed significant reductions in PTSD symptoms among the telephone therapy participants, including fewer illness-related intrusive thoughts, lower general distress and lower depressive symptoms. The telephone therapy patients were also about 15 times less likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD than the standard follow-up group.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital among the nation’s top 20 hospitals based on reputation, patient safety, and other patient-care factors. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 530,000 outpatient visits took place.

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