BACKGROUND: Cognitive-behavioral stress management interventions are associated with improved psychological well-being for cancer survivors. The availability of, access to, and outreach of these in-person interventions are limited, however. The current study, therefore, evaluated the efficacy of StressProffen, a digital application (app)-based stress management intervention for cancer survivors, in a 12-month randomized controlled trial.

METHODS: Cancer survivors 1 year or less after their treatment (N = 172) were randomized to the StressProffen intervention (n = 84) or a usual-care control group (n = 88). The intervention was delivered in a simple blended care model: 1) 1 in-person introduction session, 2) 10 app-based cognitive-behavioral stress management modules, and 3) 2 follow-up phone calls. Stress (Perceived Stress Scale), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), self-regulatory fatigue (Self-Regulatory Fatigue 18), and health-related quality of life (HRQOL; RAND-36) were examined at the baseline and at 6 and 12 months. Generalized linear models for repeated measures were fitted to compare effects over time.

RESULTS: Participants were mainly female (82%), had a mean age of 52 years (standard deviation, 11.3 years; range, 20-78 years), and had a variety of cancer types (mostly breast cancer [48%]). Over the 12-month study time, the intervention group reported significantly decreased stress (P < .001), depression (P = .003), and self-regulatory fatigue (P = .002) as well as improved HRQOL (for 6 of 8 domains, P ≤ .015) in comparison with controls. The largest favored effects for the intervention group were observed at 6 months: stress (estimated mean difference [MD], -5.1; P < .001), anxiety (MD, -1.4; P = .015), depression (MD, -2.1; P < .001), self-regulatory fatigue (MD, -4.9; P < .001), and HRQOL (7 of 8 domains; P ≤ .037).

CONCLUSIONS: Digital stress management interventions such as StressProffen have the potential to extend the outreach of psychological interventions and provide easily available and effective psychosocial support for cancer survivors.

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Published in Cancer.

© 2021 The Authors

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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Funding was provided by the Norwegian Cancer Society (4602492-2013; principal investigator Lise Solberg Nes) and the Department of Digital Health Research of Oslo University Hospital (Oslo, Norway).