An Educational Program on Survivorship Topics for Young Patients with Breast Cancer

A study that will be presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium analyzed the efficacy of an education program geared toward young patients with breast cancer who may have questions about survivorship challenges.

“Women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 45 face unique survivorship challenges, including early menopause, late effects of treatment, psychosocial distress, and sex and intimacy changes. Few cancer centers offer patient education programs that address these survivorship topics for young women, and some healthcare providers report feeling unprepared to address these patient needs,” the study authors explained.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) is a national nonprofit organization. LBBC created a four-part educational program called the Survivorship Series for Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer, as well as a plan for nurse navigators to bring this series to their own centers.

LBBC coordinated with a nurse practitioner involved with breast cancer survivorship to create the program, which included educational sessions focused on four survivorship topics. Select program leaders (PLs) were nurse practitioners who took part in an in-person training in preparation to deliver the education program to their cancer centers. PL training included an extensive review of each of the four survivorship topics, as well as how to advertise and implement the program with their own patients; they also completed a pre- and post-training assessment.

PLs demonstrated increased knowledge in each of the four survivorship topics. Total attendance for the four sessions ranged from 68 to 111 participants, while individual group sizes ranged from one to 21 participants. The majority of participants not only said they gained knowledge in all of the survivorship topics but also reported changes of behavior or intentions to change their behavior. The program also allowed women an opportunity to connect with other women.

Participants said they preferred a PL who was able to lead group discussions and share legitimate relevant information and had strong facilitation skills. In improving the program for the future, one participant recommendation was improving the facilitation skills of the PLs. Before the program, most patients did not have any knowledge about LBBC, and after the sessions, they reported different levels of LBBC knowledge.

“The pilot evaluation showed that the [series] successfully increased knowledge of survivorship topics for both PLs and program participants,” the authors concluded. “The program engaged [more than] 200 people and provided them with a supportive educational program tailored to the unique survivorship needs of young women affected by breast cancer.”