Since 2019, around 450 people, including cancer patients and their families, have participated in the ONCOR programme mindfulness courses in the Oncology Service at the Hospital Clínic Barcelona. The ONCOR programme has shown that mindfulness provides an improvement in the well-being of cancer patients.
The Oncology Service, in cooperation with psychology team, began a pilot programme in 2019 to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of offer mindfulness courses to patients and families in a hospital setting. These programmes were seen to generate interest and offering the courses from the hospital was highly valued. In addition, the participants showed significant improvement in their emotional well-being, with a decrease seen in their levels of anxiety and depression. There was also improvement in how they related to their illness, their family and health personnel; with improvement in physical symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, and sleep, also being reported. During the pandemic, the programmes were offered online and the sessions were thus continued. Currently, the courses are in a hybrid format, both face-to-face and online.
A research programme was started in 2022 to assess the benefit of a sequential mindfulness programme in cancer patients. The programme is based on taking 2 x 8-week standardised mindfulness courses. It is also combined with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Compassionate Mind Training (CMT) programmes, in which the Granollers Hospital and the Girona Institut Català d'Oncologia (ICO) also participate. And, thanks to the support of the Fundació NousCims DOMUN programme, ONCOR's mindfulness courses have spread to other Barcelona hospitals.
The motto of this programme is "Cultivating Well-being during Illness" and its aim is to offer activities that contribute to promoting the physical and emotional health of cancer patients and their families while, at the same time, building up scientific evidence about it. One of the activities carried out within this programme is a mindfulness training course. They cultivate the ability to pay attention to the present, without judgment, with a kind and self-caring attitude. These are 8-week long group programmes, with a meeting each week. A theoretical framework is provided In the programme, with exercises of inquiry, meditation and yoga being performed; both in class and at home during the week.
There is increasing evidence of the multiple benefits of mindfulness in people with cancer. For this reason, scientific societies such as the American Society of Oncology include the the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme as a non-pharmacological option for treating the emotional symptoms of patients. Assessing the emotional impact that cancer has on people is an essential step when it comes to improving the care that these patients receive. Programmes like ONCOR help assess this impact and to take a more holistic approach to the treatment and support of cancer patients and their families.
Dr Begoña Mellado and Dr Tamara Saurí. Clínic Barcelona hospital Oncology Service and the Translational Genomics and Targeted Therapies in Solid Tumours Research Group. Postgraduate course in Mindfulness for Health and Wellbeing of the University of Barcelona