Non-drug Stress Management for Patients with Cancer: A Systematic Review

The Open Nursing Journal 10 Nov 2021 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW DOI: 10.2174/1874434602115010211



Patients with cancer suffer from the physical impacts of the disease, including pain in organs where cancer has spread to and treatment side effects. Many factors affect the mental state of cancer patients, especially stress which can cause muscle tension around the affected area and create a higher degree of pain. Stress impacts physical conditions and results in a worse quality of life. Thus, an appropriate approach to cope with, evaluate, and manage stress in cancer patients is considered crucial.


The purpose of this systematic review was to determine and evaluate non-drug stress management guidelines for cancer patients.


A systematic review was undertaken to synthesize knowledge concerning stress and non-drug stress management for cancer patients. Information was sourced from documents and articles published by related institutions in relevant electronic databases, including PubMed, PsycINFO, Dynamed, and ScienceDirect between 2013 and 2019. No limitations were imposed regarding the type of study design previously used. Conference abstracts were not accepted. The quality of all included studies was independently appraised by two review writers.


The search generated 129 studies, of which only 20 met the inclusion criteria. The 20 studies cover 11 studies of music for cancer prevention and 6 studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction in cancer patients. The studies utilized both quantitative and qualitative approaches, while three studies of biofeedback in cancer patients only collected quantitative data. For the outcome from the reviews, 6 studies found that music therapy, biofeedback, and mindfulness greatly impact physical alterations such as insomnia, nausea or vomiting, and pain. Furthermore, 17 studies found that non-drug management techniques had a positive impact on psychological adjustments such as stress and anxiety reduction and relaxation promotion. Non-drug stress management such as music, biofeedback, and mindfulness was found to reduce stress among patients.


This review confirms that non-drug stress management approaches can reduce suffering, lead to a better quality of life, reduce mortality rates, minimize treatment costs, and prevent and mitigate unwanted symptoms in cancer patients. This approach can be adapted and applied to patients with other diseases in the future. However, because several of the reviewed studies did not have a follow-up period, the present study was unable to collect evidence suggesting how long the observed benefits will remain.

Keywords: Cancer patients, Stress in cancer patients, Non-drug stress management, Music therapy, Biofeedback, Mindfulness.
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