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An Individualized Representational Intervention to Improve Symptom Management (IRIS) in Older Breast Cancer Survivors: Three Pilot Studies

Susan M. Heidrich
Roger L. Brown
Judith J. Egan
Oscar A. Perez
Cynthia H. Phelan
Hyune Yeom
Sandra E. Ward
ONF 2009, 36(3), E133-E143 DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.E133-E143

Purpose/Objectives: To test the feasibility and acceptability of an individualized representational intervention to improve symptom management (IRIS) in older breast cancer survivors and test the short-term effects of an IRIS on symptom distress.

Design: Two small randomized clinical trials and one pre-experimental study.

Setting: Oncology clinic and community.

Sample: 41 women with breast cancer (aged 65 years and older) in pilot study 1, 20 in pilot study 2, and 21 in pilot study 3.

Methods: In pilot study 1, women were randomized to the IRIS or usual care control. In pilot study 2, women were randomized to the IRIS or delayed IRIS (wait list) control. In pilot study 3, all women received the IRIS by telephone. Measures were collected at baseline, postintervention, and follow-up (up to four months).

Main Research Variables: Feasibility, acceptability, symptom distress, symptom management behaviors, symptom management barriers, and quality of life.

Findings: Across three pilot studies, 76% of eligible women participated, 95% completed the study, 88% reported the study was helpful, and 91% were satisfied with the study. Some measures of symptom distress decreased significantly after the IRIS, but quality of life was stable. Women in the IRIS group changed their symptom management behaviors more than controls.

Conclusions: Preliminary evidence supports the need for and feasibility of an IRIS.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses may help older breast cancer survivors manage their numerous chronic symptoms more effectively by assessing women's beliefs about their symptoms and their current symptom management strategies.

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