Psychological distress upon breast cancer diagnosis is not unusual, and it can have a negative impact on perception of pain and other aspects of any surgical recovery. Whether self-care toolkits (SCTs) provide value for patients with breast cancer prior to surgery was addressed by a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The researchers assessed the efficacy of SCTs among female patients from 2 Army medical centers, with one cohort (n=49) receiving treatment as usual (TAU) prior to breast cancer surgery, while the other cohort (n=51) also received SCTs prior to surgery.

In addition to an antinausea acupressure wrist band, each SCT contained an MP3 player with headphones and included audio tracks providing direction on breathing methods, guided meditation, and guided imagery.

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The researchers measured inflammation through C-reaction protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) levels in the blood, in addition to quality of life, pain, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, sleep, and global health. Measurements occurred at baseline, right before surgery, in the first 10 hours postsurgery, and about 2 weeks following surgery.

Pain within 10 hours postsurgery was less elevated for the SCT cohort than it was for the TAU cohort (P =.008) in comparison with pain right before surgery.

From baseline to the 2-week postsurgery follow-up, the SCT cohort showed significantly better scores than the TAU cohort did for fatigue (P =.023), a social satisfaction measure (P =.021), and, especially, pain interference (P =.005).

ESR elevation also showed a smaller rise detected at follow-up for the SCT cohort (P =.0197).

Self-care toolkits may assist patients in experiencing less pain and related negative outcomes accompanying surgery for breast cancer, with, as the authors noted, a low risk of harm.


Stoerkel E, Bellanti D, Paat C, et al. Effectiveness of a self-care toolkit for surgical breast cancer patients in a military treatment facility. J Altern Complement Med. 2018;24(9-10):916-925.