September 13, 2013 | by Denise Heady
Breast cancer treatment can be not only daunting but depressing, with 15 to 25 percent of cancer patients suffering from depression, according to the National Cancer Institute. Going online may help, with a new study finding that online intervention tools can help boost breast cancer patients’ moods, making them feel less depressed.
The study, co-authored by James Waisman, M.D., a clinical professor in City of Hope’s Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, found that these tools give patients a way to express their feelings about their health, enabling them to communicate with loved ones and resulting in a more positive outlook.
Waisman and his colleagues studied 88 women who were either currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer or who had already finished treatment. The women were recruited using BreastLink — a network of cancer treatment centers in Southern California.
The women, ages 28 to 76, were randomly assigned either to a group tasked with creating a personal website using a program called Project Connect Online or to a wait-list group. Participants in the second group were told they'd have to wait six months before having a chance to create a personal website.
Participants assigned to immediately create a personal website were given a three-hour workshop on how to create and use the sites. Standard mood assessment questionnaires were issued at the start of the study, one month after the websites were created and again six months after the websites were created. At the one- and six-month mark, researchers found that the women who had built a personal website felt less depressed and more positive than the women who were put on the wait list.
The positive moods were noticeably reported by women undergoing treatment, rather than women who already completed treatment.
The lead author of the study, psychologist Annette Stanton of UCLA, told Reuters Health that this study was the first to use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate online intervention tools and their influence on patient moods.
The personal websites allowed women to tell their story and communicate with others without having to continuously repeat information about their treatment, Stanton said.
Although the sample size is small and needs to be confirmed, Waisman told Reuters Health, the study is encouraging.
"This is a way they can mobilize support — through their computer and their website," she said.