HSR20-092: “Write to Recover”: The Impact of Group Led Creative Writing on Physical Health Outcomes in Cancer Patients

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  • 1 Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA

Introduction: A cancer diagnosis can adversely affect a patient’s mental health. Therefore, a patient’s emotional well-being, not only the cancer, must be addressed during treatment. Our team previously found in a randomized, longitudinal study that creative writing workshops (CWW) for cancer patients have a positive effect on mood compared to active control (AC). Here, we present results comparing the impact on participants’ physical health. Methods: CWW’s impact on patients’ physical well-being was longitudinally evaluated in a phase II study with cancer patients (any stage & cancer type), who were randomized 2:1 to CWW and AC. CWW arm patients attended at least 4, 1.5-hour CWW, while AC patients completed independent, book guided writing at home, both bi-monthly for 8wks. We evaluated impact on physical well-being as represented by: changes in somatic symptoms (SSS-8), cancer status at study start and end, co-morbidities (ED, hospitalizations) during and 3-months after, and frequency of class attendance following baseline assessment. Quantitative scales had descriptive statistics generated for each group (gp), pre and post intervention. Wilcoxon Rank-sum tests were used to make comparisons between gps, with all tests being two sided and a statistical significance level of 0.05. Results: From evaluable patients, N of 50 (demographics table below), at least 1 class was attended by 26 patients and at least 4 classes were attended by 19 patients in the CWW gp. There was no statistical difference between control and intervention in somatic symptoms. There was also no statistical difference in cancer status or emergency room visits either at the end of the study period or three months following completion. However, patients in CWW were statistically more likely to continue the study after their baseline compared to control (p= 0.0299). Conclusion: Our group previously showed that group led CWW have a positive effect on mood, but no impact was found on somatic symptoms, cancer status, or comorbidities. Patients were more likely to attend CWW after baseline than control. Impacts on physical well-being may take longer to present in cancer patients who attend CWW, suggesting that future studies should analyze a longer follow up in these patients. Our findings suggest potential therapeutic benefit of this intervention on the emotional, although not physical, well-being of cancer patients. Larger studies are needed to evaluate CWW’s effect in cancer patients.


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Corresponding Author: Courtney Ann Kramer, BS