Cancer treatment-ending celebration distresses some former patients

Ringing a bell to celebrate the end of cancer treatment is a common tradition that may cause some patients distress, according to a study published in International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics.

To signal the end of radiation therapy to treat cancer, patients are often told to ring a bell, and while patients appeared to enjoy it, the psychological impact had not been examined.

Researchers conducted a study among patients receiving radiation therapy at a single-center outpatient radiation oncology clinic. They examined 200 patients, 107 of whom rang a bell at the end of their treatment and then completed a survey. The other 103 patients completed treatment and filled out the survey, but did not ring a bell.

The surveys included an 11-point numerical rating scale in combination with a verbal rating scale which included several statements designed to describe pain intensity and duration.

They found that patients in the bell group reported worse overall distress scores than the group that did not ring the bell.

The researchers also conducted follow-up surveys and found that the "distress persists and even worsens in the months after treatment."

The bell causes "emotional arousal" that "may magnify the distress from cancer treatment," study authors concluded.

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