Expressive writing in patients receiving palliative care: A feasibility study

Eduardo Bruera, Jie Willey, Marlene Cohen, J. Lynn Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care often experience severe physical and psychosocial symptoms. However, there are limited resources for psychological and emotional support. Expressive writing has shown decreased anxiety level in young and healthy people suffering from a number of stressors. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of expressive writing in patients receiving palliative care and the most suitable outcomes of expressive writing in this patient population. Design: In this pilot study, patients were randomly assigned to either the expressive writing group (EW) or the neutral writing group (NW). Anxiety level before and after the writing session was compared between the two groups. Writing materials were content analyzed using standard qualitative research methods. Results: A total of 24 patients (12 in EW and 12 in NW) were enrolled in the study between October 2006 and January 2007. Although the majority of patients (83%-100%) were able to complete all baseline assessments, poor adherence was observed during the follow-ups. Only 8% of patients completed the 2-week study. There was no significant difference in the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) State-Anxiety scores at baseline, before and after each writing session between the EW and NW groups. Discussion: Our rapid accrual suggests that palliative care patients are interested in participating in studies such as expressive writing. The high level of adherence to the baseline assessments indicates that these assessments were not particularly difficult for our patients to complete. Future studies may need to include patients with better performance status, better patient education, means of emotional expression (i.e., audio recording, telephone interview) and improved adherence. Conclusion: We conclude that clinical trials of expressive writing in the palliative care setting are not feasible unless they undergo major modification in methods compared to those previous reported in other patient population. Our findings will hopefully assist researchers considering similar studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-19
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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