The effects of psychoeducation and telephone counseling on the adjustment of women with early-stage breast cancer

Deborah Witt Sherman, Judith Haber, Carol Noll Hoskins, Wendy C. Budin, Greg Maislin, Shilpa Shukla, Frances Cartwright-Alcarese, Christina Beyer McSherry, Renee Feurbach, Mildred Ortu Kowalski, Mary Rosedale, Annie Roth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Throughout the illness trajectory, women with breast cancer experience issues that are related to physical, emotional, and social adjustment. Despite a general consensus that state-of-the-art treatment for breast cancer should include educational and counseling interventions to reduce illness or treatment-related symptoms, there are few prospective, theoretically based, phase-specific randomized, controlled trials that have evaluated the effectiveness of such interventions in promoting adjustment. Purpose: The aim of this study is to examine the physical, emotional, and social adjustment of women with early-stage breast cancer who received psychoeducation by videotapes, telephone counseling, or psychoeducation plus telephone counseling as interventions that address the specific needs of women during the diagnostic, postsurgery, adjuvant therapy, and ongoing recovery phases of breast cancer. Design: Primary data from a randomized controlled clinical trial. Setting: Three major medical centers and one community hospital in New York City. Methods: A total of 249 patients were randomly assigned to either the control group receiving usual care or to one of the three intervention groups. The interventions were administered at the diagnostic, postsurgery, adjuvant therapy, and ongoing recovery phases. Analyses were based on a mixed model analysis of variance. Main Research Variables and Measurement: Physical adjustment was measured by the side effects incidence and severity subscales of the Breast Cancer Treatment Response Inventory (BCTRI) and the overall health status score of the Self-Rated Health Subscale of the Multilevel Assessment Instrument. Emotional adjustment was measured using the psychological well-being subscale of the Profile of Adaptation to Life Clinical Scale and the side effect distress subscale of BCTRI. Social adjustment was measured by the domestic, vocational, and social environments subscales of the Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness Scale. Findings: Patients in all groups showed improvement over time in overall health, psychological well-being, and social adjustment. There were no significant group differences in physical adjustment, as measured by side effect incidence, severity, or overall health. There was poorer emotional adjustment over time in the usual care (control) group as compared to the intervention groups on the measure of side effect distress. For the telephone counseling group, there was a marked decline in psychological well-being from the adjuvant therapy phase through the ongoing recovery phase. There were no significant group differences in the dimensions of social adjustment. Conclusion: The longitudinal design of this study has captured the dynamic process of adjustment to breast cancer, which in some aspects and at various phases has been different for the control and intervention groups. Although patients who received the study interventions improved in adjustment, the overall conclusion regarding physical, emotional, and social adjustment is that usual care, which was the standard of care for women in both the usual care (control) and intervention groups, supported their adjustment to breast cancer, with or without additional interventions. Implications for Nursing: The results are important to evidence-based practice and the determination of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of interventions in improving patient outcomes. There is a need to further examine adjustment issues that continue during the ongoing recovery phase. Key Points: Psychoeducation by videotapes and telephone counseling decreased side effect distress and side effect severity and increased psychological well-being during the adjuvant therapy phase. All patients in the control and intervention groups improved in adjustment. Adjustment issues are still present in the ongoing recovery phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Nursing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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