Five-year survival in women undergoing treatment for early stage breast cancer (ESBC) is greater than 90 percent. Upon completion of medical intervention, ESBC survivors frequently experience significant treatment effects, including weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, and physical limitations. For this Tier I project, we will engage: 1) women who have undergone treatment for ESBC, 2) experts from oncology and supportive therapies, and 3) the community. The engagement outcome: identification of post- treatment supportive programs, from the optimal setting, for comparative effectiveness evaluation aimed at improving post-treatment symptoms and quality of life in breast cancer survivors.
During a post-treatment focus group, ESBC survivors identified opportunities for improved support, including recommendations and education about health promotion programs that incorporate nutrition, exercise, and mind-body practices. In addition, this group recognized the importance of access, not only for the patient, but also the caregivers and family of the cancer survivor; “I eat great at work, but when I get home, my husband doesn’t understand how important this is for my recovery.”
Commonly, primary treatment and education are provided at a hospital or medical center, which is paid for with health insurance. Post-treatment, cancer survivors return to their home/work communities and may have time constraints and/or limited access to financial resources. ESBC survivors identified the need for community-based health and wellness programs/services that are readily accessible and affordable. “This [diagnosis] is something you live with forever; it is always in the back of your mind. I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive.”