Telephone Intervention Helps Breast Cancer Survivors Set—and Meet—Lifestyle Goals

Christina Izzo

A new telephone-based intervention for breast cancer survivors is showing promise, and it involves them becoming more actively engaged in goal setting and problem solving with an eye toward accelerating their recovery by engaging in health-promoting activities such as exercise, stress management and healthy eating.

Many breast cancer survivors experience difficulty after treatment when trying to resume previous levels of work, leisure, physical and social activities. This is particularly true in younger women and those in middle adulthood. For them, cancer diagnosis comes at a time of high demands for peak performance at work and home, and correspondingly less flexibility in time and schedule.

"Most breast cancer survivors bounce back well after treatment, but anywhere from a quarter to a third of them might benefit from rehabilitation interventions that help them accelerate recovery by finding and applying ways to engage in productive and health-promoting activities," first-author Kathleen D. Lyons, said in a statement. Lyons is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

The pilot study, published online in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, was conducted by a team from Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center who tested their goal-setting telephone intervention with 31 breast cancer survivors. They found that the participants found it highly satisfying and primarily used the program to set weekly goals regarding exercise, work, better nutrition, taking care of themselves and their homes, managing stress and social activities.

Participants met 71 percent of their weekly goals and showed improvements in quality of life, active coping, planning and reframing. It also resulted in less self-blame among the women receiving the intervention.

Lyons and colleagues plan to continue to study the program with a larger sample. They also plan to work with nurse practitioners at the cancer center to determine the feasibility of integrating the problem-solving and action-planning structure into survivorship care.
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