Psychological interventions during breast cancer rehabilitation: a randomized controlled trial comparing structured short-term psychotherapy versus non-specific group discussion

David Fauser, Elena Rimalis-Vogt, Johannes Mattes, Matthias Bethge


PURPOSE: Psycho-oncological treatment is recommended in cancer rehabilitation as it improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in breast cancer patients. The aim of our study was to compare a structured short-term psychotherapy and a non-specific group discussion provided during breast cancer rehabilitation.

METHODS: Breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to structured group short-term psychotherapy or a non-specific group discussion during breast cancer rehabilitation. The patients completed questionnaires at the beginning and end of rehabilitation and three months after rehabilitation. The primary outcome was anxiety. Secondary outcomes were depression, distress, fatigue and health-related quality of life domains.

RESULTS: In total, 160 patients (80 in both groups) were recruited and included in the analysis. There was no significant difference between both groups in the primary outcome anxiety at the end of rehabilitation (difference = -0.2; 95% CI -1.2 to 0.7) and three months after rehabilitation (difference = 0.2; 95% CI -0.9 to 1.3) and in any secondary outcome. Patients in the short-term psychotherapy group with high anxiety levels at baseline reported fewer depressive symptoms at the end of rehabilitation.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed no difference between structured short-term psychotherapy and a non-specific group discussion. Patients with high baseline anxiety levels were more likely to benefit from short-term structured psychotherapy. Early identification of this subgroup and symptoms of mental illness should occur after initial treatment in breast cancer patients in order to offer a structured treatment for anxiety and depressive symptoms during rehabilitation.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00017571; 08/07/2019).

Original languageEnglish
Article number1133
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1133
Publication statusPublished - 21.11.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-02 Public Health, Health Services Research and Social Medicine

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