Examination of moderators of expressive writing in patients with renal cell carcinoma: the role of depression and social support

Psychooncology. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Sep 5.
Published in final edited form as:
Psychooncology. 2017 Sep; 26(9): 1361–1368.

Published online 2016 May 3. doi:  10.1002/pon.4148

To identify groups most likely to benefit from an Expressive Writing (EW) intervention, we examined psychosocial variables as intervention moderators. We hypothesized that EW would be particularly effective for participants with high levels of depressive symptoms and social support at study entry.

Methods

Patients (n = 277; 60.6% male) with kidney cancer were randomly assigned to either an expressive (EW) or neutral writing (NW) condition. Intervention outcomes included measures of depressive symptoms (CESD), cancer-related symptoms (MDASI), fatigue (BFI), and sleep disturbances (PSQI) assessed at baseline, 1, 4, and 10 months later. Moderators were measured at baseline.

Results

As hypothesized, depressive symptoms and social support moderated intervention efficacy. When examining both moderators simultaneously, EW appeared to be most effective in terms of cancer-related symptoms (p < 0.05) and depressive symptoms (p < 0.01) for participants with elevated depressive symptoms who received high levels of social support at baseline relative to their counterparts in the NW condition. Moreover, participants in EW with high levels of social support at baseline reported lower levels sleep disturbances (p = 0.005) than their counterparts in NW.

Conclusions

Recognition of baseline depressive symptoms and social support as intervention moderators may lead to improved patient selection for EW interventions, as EW may be particularly beneficial regarding QOL outcomes for patients that have social support available including participants with depressive symptoms. EW may not be beneficial, or potentially even contraindicated, for participants lacking social support.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5094904/

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Randomised controlled trial of expressive writing and quality of life in men and women treated for colon or rectal cancer.

Psychol Health. 2015;30(3):284-300. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.971798. Epub 2014 Oct 27.

Lepore SJ1, Revenson TA, Roberts KJ, Pranikoff JR, Davey A.

This randomised trial tested (i) whether a home-based expressive writing (EW) intervention improves quality of life in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and (ii) whether the intervention is more beneficial for men or for people who feel constrained in disclosing cancer-related concerns and feelings.

DESIGN:

Patients treated for CRC were randomised to an EW (n = 101) or control writing (CW; n = 92) group. Assessments were completed at 1 month pre- and post-intervention. Sex and perceived social constraints on disclosure were evaluated as moderators.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Primary outcomes were depressive symptoms, sleep problems and quality of life indicators.

RESULTS:

Eighty-one per cent of participants completed all writing assignments. Consistent with hypotheses, relative to the CW group, participants in the EW group expressed more negative emotion in writing and rated their writings as more meaningful, personal and emotionally revealing. There were no significant main effects of EW or moderating effects of sex or social constraints on outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS:

Although EW is feasible to use with persons who have CRC, it was not effective as a stand-alone psychotherapeutic intervention. Neither was it more effective for men nor for people who felt they could not freely disclose cancer-related concerns and feelings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289438/

A pilot study of the effects of expressive writing on psychological and behavioral adjustment in patients enrolled in a Phase II trial of vaccine therapy for metastatic renal cell carcinoma.

Health Psychol. 2002 Nov;21(6):615-9.

de Moor C1, Sterner J, Hall M, Warneke C, Gilani Z, Amato R, Cohen L.

Forty-two patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma who were participating in a Phase II clinical trial were randomly assigned to an expressive writing (EW) or neutral writing (NW) group. Patients in the EW group wrote about their cancer, and patients in the NW group wrote about health behaviors. No statistically significant group differences were found in symptoms of distress, perceived stress, or mood disturbance, except for the Vigor subscale of the Profile of Mood States. However, patients in the EW group reported significantly less sleep disturbance, better sleep quality and sleep duration, and less daytime dysfunction compared with patients in the NW group. The results suggest that EW may have sleep-related health benefits in terminally ill cancer patients.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12433015