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Senior Peer Counseling by Telephone for Psychosocial Support After Breast Cancer Surgery: Effects at Six Months

Rebecca Crane-Okada
Evelyn Freeman
Holly Kiger
Marlena Ross
David Elashoff
Linda Deacon
Armando E. Giuliano
ONF 2012, 39(1), 78-89 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.78-89

Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of senior peer counseling by telephone for supplemental psychosocial support of older women after breast cancer surgery.

Design: Experimental, randomized block, longitudinal.

Setting: A community-based senior service agency and a community hospital-based breast surgical oncology practice in an urban area of California.

Sample: 142 women newly diagnosed and scheduled for surgery for stage 0-III breast cancer (X age = 61.8, range = 50-94).

Methods: Participants were stratified by age and randomized to receive telephone calls from a peer counselor (a) once per week for five weeks beginning within 72 hours postsurgery, (b) once weekly for five weeks beginning six weeks postsurgery, and (c) by request. Assessments were conducted before surgery, postintervention, and six months after surgery. Questionnaires included the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Interpersonal Relationship Inventory, and the Brief COPE.

Main Research Variables: Anxious mood, social support, and coping by seeking instrumental support.

Findings: At six months, significant main effects of age were noted for social support, fear of recurrence, and resource use. Significant independent effects of age and intervention were noted for coping by seeking instrumental support. After controlling for age, a significant interaction effect of intervention and time was observed for coping by seeking instrumental support.

Conclusions: Peer counseling may affect instrumental support seeking and appears to be differentially received by age group. Additional study is needed to better understand who benefits most and how from peer counseling.

Implications for Nursing: Trained senior peer counselor volunteers, supervised by a skilled clinical team, may be a useful adjunct in addressing psychosocial needs of women after breast cancer surgery.

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