Program on body, mind and spirit may help women with breast cancer cope

May 17th, 2009 - 11:23 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 17 (ANI): A program, called Pathfinders, created to take care of body, mind and spirit, could help women with terminal cancer cope and improve their quality of life, says a new study.

The study led by researchers in the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center revealed that Pathfinders focuses on the seven pillars of personal recovery- hope, balance, inner strengths, self care, support, spirit and life review.

“The program helped improve distress and despair during the initial three months and up to six months after diagnosis among women with metastatic breast cancer and a six month life expectancy,” said Amy Abernethy, M.D., an oncologist at Duke University Medical Center and lead investigator on the study.

She added: “Even though the women were getting sicker and experiencing more symptoms related to their cancer, they reported that they felt less distress and despair as a result of being able to better cope with the cancer.”

The program provides patient navigation, counselling, coping skills training, mind and body techniques and lifestyle advice.

“The goal of the program is to teach patients coping skills for dealing with their cancer. To reach this goal, we have created a common language between patients, nurses, physicians and Pathfinders for communicating coping skills,” said Tina Staley, director of Pathfinders.

To conduct this pilot study, the researchers enrolled 50 adult breast cancer patients with a prognosis of less than six months survival.

The women met with a Pathfinder, a trained social worker, at least monthly, and also consulted via telephone and e-mails.

The social workers helped the women identify inner strength, taught them coping skills and encouraged them to engage in complementary and alternative medical services.

“There is a growing body of data that shows cancer patients have unmet psychosocial needs, and with programs like Pathfinders we are able to care for the whole person. As a result, we found that this group of women reported a higher quality of life three months after being diagnosed than was expected,” said Abernethy.

The findings will be presented on a poster at the 2009 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Orlando. (ANI)

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