Patients with lung cancer and their partners often suffer from psychological distress. We examined whether a mindfulness training in comparison to care as usual would be effectivive in reducing their psychological distress. 63 patients and 44 partners participated. Results suggest that MBSR can reduce the psychological distress and improve the quality of life in patients with lung cancer. Partners did not seem to benefit from MBSR, possibly because they were more focused on patients’ wellbeing rather than their own.


After MBSR patients reported significantly less psychological distress than after care as usual. Additionally, patients showed more improvements in quality of life, mindfulness skills, self-compassion and rumination after MBSR versus care as usual. Baseline distress levels appeared to predict treatment outcome: thosewith more distress benefitted most from MBSR. In partners, no differences were found between the two groups. To conclude, this RCT suggested that MBSR can reduce psychological distress and improve quality of life in patients, especially in distressed patients.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of death by cancer worldwide. Besides a poor prognosis, lung cancer patients suffer from severe physical symptoms and undergo intensive treatment. Also partners are emotionally affected by lung cancer as they often take on the role of caregiver andface the fear of losing their partner. Not surprisingly, patients with lung cancer and their partners often suffer from psychological distress. Recently, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), such as MBSR, have proven to be effective in reducing psychological distress in cancer patients. However, hardly any evidence is available on the effectiveness of MBSR in lung cancer patients and their partners.


Examining whether an MBSR training can reduce the psychological distress in lung cancer patients and their partners. Additionally, we also examined the effects on quality of life, relationship quality, mindfulness skills, self-compassion and rumination. We expected that patients and partners who participated in MBSR in addition to care as usual would report less psychological distress than those patients and partners who only received care as usual.


Lung cancer patients and their partners. Patients in every stage of the disease could participate in the study. When patients did not have a life partner they could bring another close other to participate in the study.


When patients and partners wanted to participated they were invited for an interview with the nurse. Additionally, they filled out questionnaires on psychological distress among other things. Subsequently, they were randomized to either MBSR in addition to care as usual or only care as usual. Directly after MBSR and 3 months after all participants received the invitation to fill out the questionnaires again.


In November 2015 we finished data collection. Last October (2017) Melanie Schellekens defended her thesis, titled ‘Psychological Distress in Lung Cancer: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Patients and Partners’. See the Radboud Repository for a digital copy of the thesis.

By whom

For this project, the Radboudumc Centre for Mindfulness collaborated with the Department of Medical Psychology (Prof. Judith Prins) and Department of Lung Diseases (Dr. Miep van der Drift en Dr. Johan Molema) of the Radboudumc. Behavioural Scientist Melanie Schellekens (Radboudumc Centre for Mindfulness) and Nurse Specialist Desiree van den Hurk (Lung Diseases) set up the project and conducted the research.