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Study: Video Therapy Can Help Cancer Patients

A small project in Maine shows value for patients suffering from memory issues and anxiety after chemotherapy treatment.

By Eric Wicklund

- Video therapy may help the estimated half of all cancer patients who suffer some form of memory loss after chemotherapy.

It’s the latest in a growing number of reports that tout the value of video visits in reaching rural and underserved populations, helping patients who can’t afford to visit their doctor in person, and bolstering a health system’s post-discharge care management plans.

A small study conducted in Maine has found that breast cancer survivors who took part in video-based Memory and Attention Adaptation Training (MAAT) had fewer self-reported memory lapses, improved their processing speeds and were better able to handle stress over memory problems.

“We don’t really know the prevalence, but maybe 40 to 50 percent of individuals (treated with chemotherapy) have long-term mild memory problems with verbal memory, recall of conversations, what one read,” lead author Robert Ferguson of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute told Reuters. “Remembering where you parked your car or what was said in a meeting, these daily routine tasks are where failures occur.”

Ferguson, who conducted the study at Eastern Maine Medical Center and a family cancer center in Bangor and reported on the study in the medical journal Cancer, divided 47 Caucasian women breast cancer survivors into two groups for the study, with half getting MAAT therapy and the other half receiving supportive talk therapy.

Both groups received therapy via videoconference, but Ferguson noted that more than half said they wouldn’t have been able to receive any form of therapy unless it was delivered by video, due to work and travel issues.

And while a two-month follow-up after the eight one-on-one video sessions showed improvements among the MAAT patients, Ferguson said there’s no way to tell if the therapy improves memory or enables the patient to better deal with memory issues. MAAT therapy is personalized, with sessions tailored to the individual and designed to help the patient identify memory issues and deal with them before they become stressful.

“It reduces anxiety and stress, which interfere with cognitive performance, regardless of your history,” Tim A. Ahles, a behavioral psychologist with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, told Reuters.  

The study does prove that a video therapy program of any kind can help cancer survivors with memory lapses after chemotherapy simply because it gives them access to treatment that they’d otherwise fail to use. And by applying MAAT therapy, healthcare providers can teach patients to better understand and manage their condition, improving overall processing and reducing stress and anxiety.


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