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'Emotional' Writing May Help Ease Cancer Pain

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'Emotional' writing may help ease cancer pain

Patients who wrote about their feelings had less discomfort, study says


updated 3:50 p.m. ET, Fri., July. 18, 2008

Some cancer patients may find that putting their emotions down in writing helps improve their pain and general well-being, a study suggests.

Such writing, part of a concept called "narrative" medicine, has been seen as a way to aid communication between seriously ill patients and their doctors.

But the act of writing, itself, may also help patients better understand themselves and their needs, according to the study team, led by Dr. M. Soledad Cepeda of Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston.

To look at the question, they randomly assigned 234 cancer patients to one of three groups: one that was asked to perform narrative writing; one that filled out a standard questionnaire about pain symptoms; and one that stayed with standard care only.

All of the study patients were suffering from at least moderate levels of pain from their disease. Those in the narrative-writing group were asked to spend 20 minutes per week, for three weeks, writing about the ways in which cancer was affecting their daily lives.

At the study's start and then once a week for eight weeks, patients in all three groups completed a standard questionnaire about their well-being and rated their pain levels.

In general, Cepeda's team found, patients in the writing group who were open about their emotions showed less pain and greater well-being over time than the rest of the study subjects.

Such effects were not seen in patients whose writing was relatively unemotional, the researchers report in the Journal of Pain & Symptom Management.

The findings suggest that the emotional release of writing, specifically, is what helps patients deal with their cancer pain, according to Cepeda's team. However, they add, it's also possible that the most seriously ill patients find it more difficult to write about their feelings.

More studies are needed, the researchers conclude, to see whether encouraging seriously ill patients to reveal their emotions in writing benefits their well-being. In addition, they say, studies should look at whether verbally telling one's "story" has positive effects.

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(MSMBC, Reuters, July 18, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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Barb, Thanks for the article. I'm not at all surprised. It is hard sometimes though to make yourself do it. I remember how hard it was for me to do the signature part of the profile when I first joined. Then I told myself while I was on the Rancocas River I would do "My Story" so I could edit down the signature. Didn't do it. It's still a goal though.

Judy in Savanah, GA

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Hi Judy, :)

When I read the article, it made so much sense to me.

We have heard of people who have written stories about their lives and have found the process itself to be therapeutic.

I know that if I didn't have this venue, here, being able to read and communicate with you and others, I would be lost in this journey.

There are so few ways to throw our feelings out there and receive back understanding.

I have close friends and relatives who do not understand...and why should they? They are not travelling the same path. They may have empathy, but it isn't quite the same.

Recently, a relative told us that he wouldn't want what we are experiencing. I bit my tongue. Does he think we asked for this?

Just being able to see what I am thinking being written down, gives me some sense of where Bill and I are in this walk.

I have yet to write anything more about Bill's Story - other than the medical portion. He is more than all of that medical jargon, but as yet, I haven't had the impetus to get to the human story.

May we all receive and give through our mutual writings/postings and gain in spirit. The longer stories will come - even if only written down in a journal for our eyes only.


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