UA Studies Telephone Support for Latina Breast Cancer Patients

The American Cancer Society has awarded the UA a $1.3 million grant to study supportive care for Latina women diagnosed with breast cancer.
July 26, 2012
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Interested in participating in this study? Contact Maria Figueroa at 520-425-3045.

Terry Badger, professor, College of Nursing
Terry Badger, professor, College of Nursing
Chris Segrin, head of the department of communication
Chris Segrin, head of the department of communication

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, treatment begins quickly for the physical symptoms, but what about the emotional toll? Research shows that supportive care – such as counseling, health education or support groups – can have a significant impact on the overall well-being of cancer patients and their loved ones as they go through the treatment process. However, not everyone seeks out that face-to-face support.

With that in mind, researchers at the University of Arizona now are looking at how telephone-based support might make a difference in the lives of cancer sufferers, specifically Latina women with breast cancer and those closest to them.

Terry Badger, professor and division director of community and systems health science in the UA College of Nursing, has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the American Cancer Society for a five-year study titled “Support for Latinas with Breast Cancer and their Intimate Families and Partners.” Badger will serve as the study’s co-principal investigator, along with Chris Segrin, head of the UA department of communication.

The study will examine the impacts of two different types of weekly telephone interventions on the physical, social and spiritual well-being of Latina breast cancer patients and their loved ones: phone calls focused on providing supportive counseling and phone calls offering health education.

“What we’re hoping to do is examine their quality of life to see if we can decrease some of their depression, anxiety and stress and bolster their feelings of support,” Badger said. “We want to see which of the two interventions does the best job in doing that.”

Badger said she elected to focus on the Latina population because Latina women have a higher mortality rate related to cancer and tend to have fewer services available to them.

“One of the needs identified by anybody who is undergoing the cancer experience is the need for supportive care, and what we determined was that the Latina population was underserved,” Badger said. “Given the fact that we live in Southern Arizona and have a large Hispanic population, it made sense that we would turn our attention toward trying to develop something that works for these Latina women.”

Study participants must be currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer and be within one year of their diagnosis. Each woman will participate in the study along with one designated “supportive partner,” be that a significant other, friend or family member.

Study participants will be divided into two groups – those who will receive scheduled once-weekly phone calls from College of Nursing staff that focus on supportive counseling and those who will receive once-weekly calls focused on overall health education. Calls will take place over an eight-week period and can be made in either English or Spanish, depending on the participant’s preference, Badger said.

Researchers will then evaluate, through a series of questionnaires over a six-month period, the impacts of those telephone interventions on quality of life for patients and their partners.

“Because we offer the intervention over the telephone, it removes so many barriers to treatment,” Badger said. “They don’t have to get dressed and come in and find child care and transportation and all of the things that have to happen when you make a health-care appointment. That’s the beauty of using this type of delivery method. We try to make it as convenient as we can.”