Quality of life and breast cancer survivors. Psychosocial and treatment issues.Cancer Pract 1997 Sep-Oct; 5(5):309-16CP
This study was conducted to determine the relationship between social support, extent of breast cancer surgery, length of time since surgery, geographic location, and overall quality of life (QOL) in breast cancer survivors. Additionally, the motivational factors for survivors to volunteer in a community rehabilitation program were assessed.
DESCRIPTION OF STUDY
A convenience sample of 134 survivors who had undergone mastectomies were invited to participate. Study packets including an information letter, a demographic sheet, and Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life-Cancer Version questionnaire were mailed. The return of completed forms was considered consent.
The sample (N = 100) consisted mostly of married women (75%) who had surgery a mean of 14 years previously. Findings indicated that there is no correlation between marital status and the number or type of support persons and overall QOL. Interestingly, unmarried women were found to have a better perceived QOL than married women, although the difference was not statistically significant. There was no significant difference between extent of surgery, length of time since surgery, and geographic location with overall QOL. Thematic analysis of motivation to volunteer revealed an underlying theme of helping with sharing knowledge/providing information and giving emotional support for all age groups. Other themes were personal gain; giving back to the program, others, and God; and assisting others in avoiding a negative experience.
Quality of life is a dynamic, multifaceted process through which perceptions, viewpoints, and behaviors change as a result of the various experiences throughout the survival period. These findings demonstrate that social support plays a vital role in promoting overall QOL in breast cancer survivors. The development of supportive behaviors by healthcare providers and Reach for Recovery volunteers is essential in providing this social support for breast cancer survivors. Growth in understanding and relieving the psychological stress that new cancer survivors endure is an area that warrants particular attention. Additionally, these participants indicated their need and willingness to share their experiences. Support is needed to provide survivors with the opportunity to function as volunteers. Program developers and evaluators must work together to ensure this support on a consistent basis.