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Patients With Cervical Cancer Survivor Can Thrive With Social Support

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“When you have support, you have answers to some of your unknowns and that can provide stability and ease in anxiety and depression, and truly propel you into thriving,” a cervical cancer survivor and advocate tells CURE®.

Patient with cervical cancer speaking with a doctor. Socials support benefits patients with cervical cancer.

Social support, such as local hospital support groups, can help improve the lives of patients with cervical cancer.

For patients with cervical cancer, care teams and loved ones should work to ensure that social supports are available to bolster overall life satisfaction, according to the findings of a new study.

“Health care providers, family, and friends should offer more social support to the patients and make efforts to strengthen their self-care self-efficacy, facilitate active coping, and alleviate depressive symptoms to improve women’s life satisfaction,” wrote the authors of a recent study published in the journal Cancer Nursing.

Drawing on survey responses of 292 women with cervical cancer, researchers found evidence that “self-efficacy, coping strategies and (attention to) depressive symptoms mediates the effect of social support on life satisfaction. Direct paths from social support to life satisfaction, social support to self-efficacy, self-efficacy to coping strategies, coping strategies to depressive symptoms, and depressive symptoms to life satisfaction were significant. Moreover, indirect paths from social support to life satisfaction, self-efficacy to life satisfaction and coping strategies to life satisfaction were also significant.”

Morgan Newman, a metastatic recurrent cervical cancer survivor and community engagement liaison for patient advocate organization Cervivor, spoke with CURE® via email about the study and its findings regarding the importance of social support for patients with cervical cancer.

We see this a lot in our community — those impacted by cervical cancer who have been isolated due to the shame and stigma associated with an HPV-related cancer,” Newman said. “When individuals find out about the global reaching community, it changes how they perceive feeling alone. When they feel they are a part of something, like a community, then feel they have a purpose.”

Q: What are some examples of social support available to patients with cervical cancer?

A: We have heard most local hospital support groups are combined with other gynecologic cancers and cervical cancer patients and survivors are less frequent in those groups. Along with local groups, there are several virtual support groups, events and activities from various organizations including Cervivor, Inc., an organization founded by a 22-year cervical cancer survivor, Tamika Felder, and run by cervical cancer survivors.

Q: Have social supports increased over time? If so, how?

A: With the reach of technology, there has been an increase in how we can support others, however, we still face technology deficits in the U.S. and globally.

Q: Are there any current disparities regarding access to and utilization of social supports among patients? If so, what?

A: For sure, there are disparities that exist in communities with less access to technology, rural communities where they may not have access to local groups or even the proper specialists to treat them. Cervical cancer is one of the most financially taxing cancers which tacks on an additional layer of inequity.

Q:What are your thoughts on the findings of the study?

A: It is a tried-and-true result. When you have support, you have answers to some of your unknowns and that can provide stability and ease in anxiety and depression, and truly propel you into thriving.

Q: How can social support in turn encourage self-care, impart coping strategies and help patients address depressive symptoms?

A: Some people don’t know where to start. Having social support eases that and can help in teaching new strategies to cope.

Q:The recent study on this topic was published in the journal Cancer Nursing. What role do nurses play in educating and helping to connect patients with cervical cancer with social support?

A: I would say between nurses and social workers, they may be the only point of contact that provides crucial support resources for patients. They are extremely important in helping organizations like Cervivor, Inc. to reach those seeking support.

Q: What sorts of conversations can patients be having with nurses regarding social support?

A: They can ask if there are any resources available. If the nurse doesn’t know, they can ask if a social worker is available to discuss them. They can ask what they should be looking for in their own searches.

Q:How have attitudes towards social supports for patients with cervical cancer, and patients’ life overall life satisfaction, evolved in recent years?

A: Social support, depending on the area of support, used to have a form of stigma. If you asked for help, it could be viewed as a form of weakness. As new support resources, diagnoses and technology (emerge) those stigmas, feelings of shame and weakness dissipate.

Q: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about this topic?

A: Please share valuable resources because you never know who may need to utilize them. You may be the one person who can change everything for someone.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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