Breast Cancer Resource Center Savannah, GA USA

Research Publications – CSWE 2022

Council on Social Work Education, Annual Program Meeting, Anaheim, CA, November 2022

Perspectives of breast cancer patients related to implementation of online support during treatment

Authors: Dr. Elisabeth Counselman-Carpenter, PhD, LCSW, Adelphi University, Joyce T Williams, Keepers of the Flame Foundation

Abstract: Perspectives of breast cancer patients: recommendations related to development and implementation of online curriculum and digital social support for womxn undergoing treatment.

Health care as a human right should include the ability to access services related to digitally-based behavioral health and support services and the right to integrated medical and behavioral health treatment when battling cancer, particularly for womxn of color who are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from breast cancer. This interactive presentation, based on the findings of a mixed methods survey of 70 womxn currently fighting or deemed in remission from breast cancer, explores the relationship between breast cancer patient preferences on physician-driven referrals to therapy, with a focus on treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the current research focuses on the role of technology on electronic health interventions (Yanez, 2019), or alternative complementary care, such as yoga (Addinton et al., 2018) but does not focus on the role that technology mediated programs such as online support groups, social media, web-based psychoeducational curriculum and/or telehealth may play in improving coping skills and delivering psychotherapeutic support for womxn undergoing treatment (Post & Flanagan, 2016). The findings of this study show a general lack of physician driven referrals made to therapy either at the point of diagnosis, throughout the treatment process or at the conclusion of treatment, which, when intersecting with the loss of supportive programs (such as companions attending chemotherapy and free ride share programs during the medical treatment process) due to COVID-19 (Ilun & Ozmen, 2021), create a tremendous need for services that can be delivered in virtual formats during a long physical process, which has been complicated by the ongoing pandemic and that has been identified as emotionally traumatic. Participants identified points at which technology mediated services can and should be offered, recommendations regarding the content of offered web-based services and specific training suggestions for those providing the services. Recommendations for telehealth practice, curricular content for webinars and program development for group support with womxn currently or immediately post-breast cancer treatment will be discussed.

Participants will be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of virtual (tech-based) support as a way of diminishing barriers to treatment for womxn with historically socially marginalized identities while understanding the nuanced needs to prevent further traumatization related to those experiencing breast cancer and its treatment. 

Participants will be able to apply patient-based perspectives related the successes and challenges of internet-based programming, including virtually based mutual aid groups, synchronous and asynchronous webinars, online curriculum and overall telehealth.

Participants will be able to evaluate current online curriculum and online telehealth options designed to support womxn undergoing treatment for breast cancer.