Study to ease cancer-related distress needs survivors

The National Cancer Institute estimates over a third of survivors experience significant levels of distress linked to their cancer experiences. And while psychosocial interventions may help alleviate that distress, many survivors are unable to access or find the appropriate tools for assistance. This is why the NCI is sponsoring a nationwide clinical trial to identify how to help distressed cancer survivors. In conjunction with Loma Linda University, the NCI has developed an accessible Internet-based intervention program that hopes to improve quality of life and reduce mood disturbances for survivors. Jason Owen, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Loma Linda University and lead investigator on the trial, described the program to me. It's a 12-week online program that includes a group discussion board, weekly chat conversations that are professionally facilitated and personal pages. Each week a different coping exercise is focused on, and participants are encouraged to share their experiences with each other. Participants can use the site as much or as little as they wish, although they are encouraged to attend the weekly chat conversations (currently on Wednesdays at 7-8:30 p.m. EST) to get to know other survivors and learn from each other. All information is password-protected and anonymous. The program is free to any cancer survivors at any stage of treatment or follow-up as long as they are over age 18 and are experiencing distress. You must have access to the Internet and are willing to complete a few questionnaires as part of the trial. For more information, check out www.health-space.net or call 1-800-395-1525. Only a handful of studies have examined the benefits of Internet-based interventions for treating distress in cancer survivors. Your participation in this study can help develop programs that are accessible to anyone with a computer. But most importantly, sharing your experiences with other survivors can be a step toward healing and toward helping others while helping yourself.