RATIONALE: Animal-assisted therapy and recreation therapy may help relieve mental and
physical distress in cancer patients being treated for pain and help them live more
PURPOSE: This randomized clinical trial is studying how well animal-assisted therapy and
recreation therapy works in relieving distress in cancer patients undergoing treatment for
- Determine the effect of animal-assisted therapy and recreational therapy on
psychological and physiological distress in oncology patients being treated for pain.
- Determine the effect of these therapies on the level of pain unpleasantness and the use
of PRN pain medications in these patients.
- Determine the effect of these therapies on the level of pain intensity in these
- Determine the effect of these therapies on patient attitudes towards pets.
OUTLINE: This is a randomized, cross-over study. Patients are randomized to 1 of 2 arms.
- Arm I: Patients undergo a 20-minute animal-assisted therapy (AAT) session with an AAT
dog and dog owner on day 1 followed by a 20-minute session with a recreational
therapist on day 2.
- Arm II: Patients undergo a 20-minute session with a recreational therapist on day 1
followed by a 20-minute AAT session with a dog and dog owner on day 2.
Patients in both arms complete two questionnaires before and after each therapy session to
measure physiological and psychological distress related to pain. Patients also undergo
measurement of pain-related physiological distress by assessment of salivary cortisol. For
patients with indwelling catheters, serum beta-endorphin levels are measured as markers of
distress. Medication use data are collected every 24 hours during study.
PROJECTED ACCRUAL: A total of 150 patients will be accrued for this study.
- Diagnosis of cancer
- Currently enrolled in a primary research protocol and referred for consult to the
National Institute of Health's pain and palliative care team and/or recreation
- Participation in this study is contingent upon approval of principal
investigator of primary protocol
- Participation in this study may not interrupt or alter primary cancer
- Rating of ≥ 4 on the distress scale and/or 6 yes boxes checked
- Able to speak English and read at a 5th-grade level
- No allergies to or fear of dogs
- No strict contact or respiratory isolation restrictions
- No neutropenia
PRIOR CONCURRENT THERAPY:
- See Disease Characteristics