Drs. Abernethy, Smith, et al. will present an evaluation of the Pathfinders program in their report entitled: “Impact of a Psychosocial Intervention on Quality of Life (QOL) Outcomes in Cancer Patients.” “Pathfinders” are licensed clinical social workers who teach specific coping skills while activating the metastatic breast cancer patient's innate strengths to assist in navigating the cancer journey. The pilot study measures QOL and psychological distress at baseline, 3 and 6 months; results will be used to inform a randomized clinical trial of “Pathfinders”. The second paper, entitled “A 3-year Randomized Controlled Trial on the Impact of Brief Psychosocial Interventions on Breast Cancer Survivorship” by Lo, Chan, Ho, & Leung, addresses the sustainability of the effects of a brief intervention over time. Their results suggest that initial differences between different treatment modalities decrease over time. Finally, Oktay and colleagues present a mixed-method evaluation of an intervention where family-focused components are added to a “mind-body” group intervention for breast cancer survivors suffering from fatigue. This paper emphasizes how a qualitative component adds knowledge to a RCT, in which treatment-control group differences were not statistically significant. Brad Zebrack, of the University of Michigan, will serve as discussant.
The papers have a number of similarities; for example, all three programs evaluated interventions for breast cancer survivors, took place in multidisciplinary medical settings, and dealt with problems of attrition. The papers differ in interventions studied, methodology and in target populations (women with metastatic disease, long-term survivors, and patients with fatigue and their families). Each paper focuses attention on a different question about the intervention: Is it effective? Do the effects last? Does a family-focused component add to the effectiveness of a mind-body intervention? The discussant will facilitate a discussion of these similarities and differences and the state-of-the-art in intervention research in oncology social work today.