According to current study results, patients with breast cancer who received active chemotherapy achieved a significant reduction in headache stress after participating in a six-week sleep behavior therapy program.
The data published in the journal Cancer also showed an improvement in insomnia. In addition, the results of the sleep behavior therapy program showed lasting positive effects after one year of follow-up.
“Although cancer survival rates continue to improve, half of the survivors suffer from chronic illnesses, including insomnia,” the study authors wrote. “Although many cancer survivors complain of a headache-related disability, there is only a lack of headache research in cancer survivors without intracranial tumors.”
The authors also found that treating chronic headache disorders in cancer patients is quite difficult for a variety of reasons. There is a possibility of adverse drug interactions with chemotherapy or other cancer drugs. And, according to the authors, many patients are reluctant to add another drug to their regimen.
Therefore, the study authors wanted to investigate the effectiveness of behavioral interventions targeting cancer-related insomnia, hopefully to relieve headaches, reduce insomnia symptoms, and improve overall quality of life.
Patients were randomly assigned to receive either brief behavioral therapy for cancer-related insomnia (BBT-CI; 73 patients; mean age 52 years) or training on healthy eating for healthy sleep (HEAL; 66 patients; mean age 49 years) during chemotherapy treatment. The patients were evaluated at the start of the study and reassessed after six weeks, six and 12 months.
Those who received BBT-CI saw significant headache reductions over time. The results showed that there was a reduction in headache stress in patients receiving HEAL, but the authors emphasized that this was not significant.
The data showed that both groups had an immediate effect at week six. The decline in headache stress persisted in the BBT-CI group with no further treatment, but increased with the one-year follow-up for those who received HEAL.
Headache reduction was not significant in 12 migraineurs.
The researchers advised breast cancer patients to sleep regularly, exercise, stay hydrated, eat healthy and nutritious foods to optimize the nervous system and prevent headaches.
“We therefore suggest that maintaining these regular healthy behaviors in the pre-chemotherapy / radiotherapy and post-chemotherapy / radiotherapy periods can help prevent the development of chronic headache disorders in cancer survivors,” the study authors concluded.
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