J Soc Integr Oncol. 2008 Spring;6(2):59-66.
This study evaluated whether expressive writing (EW) was an effective stress management intervention for breast cancer patients. Women were recruited at the end of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and assigned to write about their cancer experience (EW group; n = 24) or neutral topics (neutral writing [NW] group; n = 25). Women were asked to write for 20 minutes a day for a total of four writing sessions that were completed over a 7-day period. Participants were reassessed approximately 3 days before and 2 weeks after surgery. The intervention did not significantly decrease women’s distress, perceived stress, sleep disturbance, or pain. There was some evidence that the EW group used more sleep medication at the presurgical assessment than the NW group. Social constraints moderated the effect of the intervention. Among women with high social constraints, the EW group reported lower average daily pain than the NW group. Among women with low social constraints, the EW group reported higher average daily pain than the NW group. EW was not broadly effective as a stress management intervention for women with breast cancer. These data do not support the use of EW as a presurgical mind-body complementary medicine program for this population.