The MATCH Study: Mindfulness And Tai chi for Cancer Health. This innovative clinical trial conducted by the University of Calgary/Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is now recruiting cancer survivors! As a participant you get to choose which treatment approach you want, or let us assign you to a group if you are equally interested in both. We will measure program effects on psychological, physical and biological outcomes including quality of life, mood, stress, balance, blood pressure, heart rate, immune function and more! Visit www.thematchstudy.ca for more details.
by Janine Giese-Davis, PhD
When treatment is over, many cancer survivors wonder what they can do to feel better physically, and to cope well with their “new normal.” The good news is that over 50% of all cancer survivors in Canada will live at least 5 years beyond diagnosis. Yet because most health-care systems must focus on getting patients through treatment, few programs offer help to transition back to communities, or ongoing programs designed specifically to improve survivors’ quality of life.
Who are cancer survivors?
The most common definition is very inclusive. Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer is a survivor. Caregivers and family members are also cancer survivors. This broad definition allows for the possibility of re-entry to the cancer care system, where patients finish treatment, have a period of remission, but need to undergo repeated treatments if their cancer reappears. Some feel that cancer has become more like a chronic illness than a one-time event in people’s lives. It also recognizes the impact that cancer can have on caregivers and family.
What are common concerns for cancer survivors?
Common concerns include survivors feeling a bit lost and abandoned by their oncology team, wondering how to reduce their stress, how not to become overwhelmed with fears of recurrence, get enough exercise, sleep well, eat healthy, and stay actively involved in social relationships that might have changed due to the cancer. They may experience sexual difficulties, have body image problems post-surgery, or experience cognitive changes. For some, finding new meaning and purpose in life takes precedence, and often survivors set new goals after cancer treatment is complete. Sometimes survivors’ friends and family may not understand their new approach to life post-cancer. They may long to have contact with others who have been through the cancer experience and can better understand their new perspective.
Who do they turn to?
Frequently care and follow-up after cancer treatment must rely on resources available in local communities, or medical care and advice from family physician practices. Survivors may not know who to turn to who might understand difficulties reintegrating into their jobs, families, and communities. They may have ongoing worries that their family physicians do not understand their cancer journey and how their treatment history might relate to other chronic illnesses. It may be confusing to know whether it is safe and wise for them to participate in exercise and coping programs offered by practitioners who do not have cancer-specific training. Many survivors also need special accommodation for exercise programs due to long-term effects of cancer surgeries or treatments. And some treatments may cause difficulties with tingling in hands and feet, breathing, or heart difficulties, that only show up much later after treatments are long past.
How can The MATCH Study help?
Each survivor is likely to chart a path to find answers and help for some of these difficulties. Although no program will address all their needs, our MATCH study is one resource specifically designed for survivors that may help to address some of these common survivorship difficulties. Receiving one of the active treatments in this study may help survivors to connect with others who have had cancer, reduce their stress, help them to sleep better, to resist feeling overwhelmed with fears of the future, increase exercise, and improve well-being. Each of these active treatments can reduce survivors’ feelings of being alone with survivorship concerns or isolated from others who have had cancer. Because each practitioner has been specifically trained to work with cancer survivors, they will understand these common concerns, and they will know how to appropriately accommodate survivors’ needs to provide a safe learning environment. In short, joining our MATCH study could put survivors on a path to a healthier, happier survivorship experience.
MATCH study breaks the clinical trials mold and allows patients to choose their intervention.
For more information visit our website: www.thematchstudy.ca
Carlson, L. E., R. Tamagawa, J. Stephen, R. Doll, P. Faris, D. Dirkse, and M. Speca. (2014). Tailoring Mind-Body Therapies to Individual Needs: Patients’ Program Preference and Psychological Traits as Moderators of the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery and Supportive-Expressive Therapy in Distressed Breast Cancer Survivors. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr (2014)2014 (50): 308-314.
Janine Giese-Davis received her B.A. in English Literature and B.S. in Psychology from Colorado State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Oncology, Division of Psychosocial Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is also affiliated with the Department of Psychosocial Resources at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary, Alberta. And she also holds an Adjunct Associate Professorship in the Department of Psychology, University of Calgary.
In Calgary, she leads the research effort on Cancer Survivorship on behalf of the provincial CancerBRIDGES team, an effort that is part of the Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology. The goal of this research program is to provide evidence-based clinical programs for cancer survivors throughout Alberta.
Her research has focused on mind/body interactions that affect psychological, physiological, and survival outcomes for people with cancer.