A University - Based Breast Cancer Program Support Service: Process and Outcomes

Sherri Sheinfeld Gorin, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Coordinator of Research, Adelphi School of Social Work

Barbara Balaban, A.S.C.W., Director of Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program

In the 1990's, over 1.5 million women will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer; nearly 30% of these women will ultimately die from the disease (American Cancer Society, 1990). Due to the nature and treatment of the illness, breast cancer continues to exact physical and psychological adjustments even in the best of cases. In general, the strength of the social support system, whether provided by friends, family, or professionals, seems an important factor in the long-versus short-term survival of women diagnosed with cancer. The present research was designed to examine the contribution of social support to outcomes in both quality of life and recurrence of breast carcinomas, and to develop a model for the further testing of these relationships.

A survey was administered by mail to 173 women with early stage breast cancer. The outcome instruments included the multi-dimensional, 13-item Life Satisfaction Index as well as the EORTC global life satisfaction measure. Recurrence was measured by months since first diagnosis using a self report, with physician confirmation. All of the instruments were chosen as they had excellent psychometric properties, and were appropriate for administration to this sample.

The paper explores the outcomes of this study within the context of the study process, the negotiated relationship between a university research team and the staff in a clinical social work setting. Avoiding interpersonal FAILURE (acronym to be explained) in collaboration is examined.

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