Breast cancer survivors living with chronic neuropathic pain show improved brain health following mindfulness-based stress reduction: a preliminary diffusion tensor imaging study
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PURPOSE: The present study explores the benefits of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program to white matter integrity among breast cancer survivors experiencing chronic neuropathic pain (CNP). METHODS: Twenty-three women were randomly assigned to either a MBSR treatment group (n = 13) or a waitlist control group (n = 10). Participants were imaged with MRI prior to and post-MBSR training using diffusion tensor imaging. RESULTS: Compared with controls, the MBSR group showed a significant increase in fractional anisotropy (FA), particularly in the left subcortical regions including the uncinate fasciculus, amygdala, and hippocampus, as well as in the external capsule and in the left sagittal stratum. No decreases to FA were found in any brain regions following MBSR training. The FA values also negatively correlated with the pain severity and pain interference scores from the BRIEF pain questionnaire. CONCLUSIONS: The present findings demonstrate that MBSR training may enhance the integrity of cerebral white matter that coincides with a reduction in pain perception. Further research with a larger sample size is required. IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS: This study highlights the potential for MBSR, as a non-pharmacological intervention, to provide both brain health improvement and pain perception relief for female breast cancer survivors experiencing CNP.
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