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Research & Studies

A Randomised Wait-list Controlled Trial to Evaluate Emotional Freedom Techniques for Self-reported Cancer-related Cognitive Impairment in Cancer Survivors (EMOTICON)

Citation (APA style): Tack, L., Lefebvre, T., Lycke, M., Langenaeken, C., Fontaine, C., Borms, M., … Debruyne, P. R. (2021). A randomised wait-list controlled trial to evaluate Emotional Freedom Techniques for self-reported cancer-related cognitive impairment in cancer survivors (EMOTICON). EClinicalMedicine, 39, 101081. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101081


Background: Cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) is a prevalent source of comprised quality of life in cancer survivors. This study evaluated the efficacy of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on self-reported CRCI (sr-CRCI).

Methods: In this prospective multicenter, randomized wait-list controlled study ( Identifier: NCT02771028), eligible cancer survivors had completed curative treatment, were 18 years or older and screened positive for sr-CRCI with ≥ 43 on the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ). Participants were randomized to the immediate treatment group (ITG) or wait-list control (WLC) group, based on age (< or ≥ 65 years), gender, treatment (chemotherapy or not), and center. The ITG started to apply EFT after inclusion and performed this for 16 weeks. The WLC group could only start the application of EFT after 8 weeks of waiting. Evaluations took place at baseline (T0), 8 weeks (T1) and 16 weeks (T2). The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with sr-CRCI according to the CFQ score.

Findings: Between October 2016 and March 2020, 121 patients were recruited with CFQ ≥ 43, indicating sr-CRCI. At T1, the number of patients scoring positive on the CFQ was significantly reduced in the ITG compared to the WLC group (40.8% vs. 87.3%, respectively; p < 0.01). For the WLC group, a reduction in CFQ scores was observed at T2, comparable to the effect of the ITG at T1. Linear mixed model analyses indicated a statistically significant reduction in the CFQ score, distress, depressive symptoms, fatigue, and also an improvement in quality of life.

Interpretation: This study provides evidence for the application of EFT for sr-CRCI in cancer survivors and suggests that EFT may be useful for other symptoms in cancer survivors.


cancer survivorship, cancer-related cognitive impairment, emotional freedom techniques, subjective cognitive complaints