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Psychological techniques for controlling the adverse side effects of cancer chemotherapy: Findings from a decade of research

Thomas G. Burish, Denise Matt Tope

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 7, Issue 5, July 1992, Pages 287-301

Editors’ comment: Dr Ricardo Caponero

As physicians we focus our activities on medical treatment and pharmacological approaches, but there are an increasing number of reports about psychological approaches. The work of Thomas G. Burish and cols. review the findings from a decade of research in this field and generates four major conclusions and points to several important areas for future inquiry.


Cancer patients receiving chemotherapeutic treatments often experience unpleasant side effects that compromise the quality of their life and may be so severe that they lead to suboptimal drug dosages, missed treatments, or even discontinuation of treatment. In recent years it has been discovered that some of these side effects result from maladaptive learning. This article reviews over 10 years of research conducted at Vanderbilt University on the prevention and treatment of these psychological side effects. This research includes the assessment of the efficacy of a behavioral relaxation technique, the exploration of procedures that make this intervention clinically practical for widespread application, research aimed at predicting which patients will and will not benefit from the intervention, and the comparison of this intervention to alternative treatment approaches. The review of this research generates four major conclusions and points to several important areas for future inquiry.

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