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A pilot randomised controlled trial to reduce suffering and emotional distress in patients with advanced cancer

Lloyd-Williams, M; Cobb, M; O'Connor, T; Dunn, Laurie; Shiels, C


M Lloyd-Williams

M Cobb

T O'Connor

Laurie Dunn

C Shiels


Introduction: A pilot trial was carried out to determine if a focussed narrative interview could alleviate the components of suffering and anxiety and depression in advanced cancer patients. InterventionPatients recruited were invited to participate in a focussed narrative interview and reflect on their perspectives on their sense of “meaning”, regarding suffering and their psychological, physical, social and spiritual well being – the emphasis was on allowing the patient to tell their story. Patients were encouraged to share what resources they themselves had utilised in addition to what professional care they may have received, to maintain a sense of well being. Method: Patients with advanced metastatic disease were recruited from hospices in the North West of England – the only exclusion criteria were not being able to understand written and spoken English and a non cancer diagnosis. At recruitment patients were asked to complete a numerical scale for suffering; the Brief Edinburgh Depression Scale, Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), FACIT Spiritual well being questionnaire, Demographic information was collected and patients were randomised to either the intervention arm of the trial or the usual care arm of the study. Patients in both groups were invited to complete each measure at 2, 4 and 8 weeks. Results: One hundred people were recruited into the study – 49 were randomised to intervention group and 51 to control group. The median age of patients was 66 years age range (31–89 years) and 68% of patients were female. At baseline the ECOG performance of 75% of patients recruited was 1 or 2. The median survival of all patients in the study was 169.5 days (range 10 days to still alive at end of study). There was no significant difference at any timepoint in scores on suffering measure between intervention group and control group. At each time point the intervention demonstrated mean improvement in scores for depression and anxiety on ESAS – the greatest changes for both depression and anxiety were seen at 4 weeks. Conclusion: This pilot randomised controlled trial of a focussed narrative intervention demonstrated an improvement in mean changes in scores for depression and anxiety at 2, 4, and 8 weeks. We suggest this intervention may have beneficial effects on depression and anxiety, but a larger powered trial is required to determine the full effects.


Lloyd-Williams, M., Cobb, M., O'Connor, T., Dunn, L., & Shiels, C. (2013). A pilot randomised controlled trial to reduce suffering and emotional distress in patients with advanced cancer. Journal of affective disorders, 148(1), 141 - 145.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 10, 2012
Online Publication Date Dec 7, 2012
Publication Date May 15, 2013
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 15, 2021
Journal Journal of affective disorders
Print ISSN 0165-0327
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 148
Issue 1
Pages 141 - 145
Keywords Clinical trial; Suffering; Depression; Anxiety; Palliative care; Hospice
Public URL


Published article (238 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2012 Elsevier B.V. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.

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