The Relationship between Social Support and the Transtheoretical Model Constructs for Breast Cancer Survivors

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This study investigates the relationship between social support and the transtheoretical model constructs for survivors of breast cancer (stage I-IV) within the first five years after treatment. Social support can range from informal support from family, friends and neighbors, to formal support from therapists and spiritual advisors; either way, it has proven to reduce anxiety and stress, while improving mood and ability to cope with pressure. Social support not only has social-emotional benefits, but also support in getting to medical appointments, encouragement to take medication, and assistance with challenges from day-to-day living as a result of the diagnosis. With this, it is expected that breast cancer survivors with a stronger social support network would be associated with a decreased likelihood of local breast cancer recurrence.

Risk of breast cancer recurrence is affected by treatment and how far the cancer has spread to the rest of the body, specifically the lymph nodes. The participants’ stage of breast cancer will tell us the severity of the disease and whether the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. Typically, the risk for local recurrence within five years from diagnosis is approximately 6% for a person who has no cancer in the lymph nodes and undergoes a mastectomy. However, individuals undergoing lumpectomy plus radiation therapy have a 0.5% chance of a local recurrence every year after diagnosis of breast cancer; this percentage is based on whether or not the tumor margins are positive or negative (contain cancer cells or not). Although both procedures are equally effective, this study will consider the risk for recurrence for breast cancer survival based on these treatment optio...

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...behaviors, such as going to medical appointments and living a healthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, women with a weaker social support system are at a greater risk for local recurrence of breast cancer, especially among participants who have a more aggressive stage of cancer. Participants with less social support are expected to progress through the stages of the model with greater difficulty and have a negative association with behavior change.

Conclusion

Individuals with a strong social support system are less likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer due to the encouragement, support, and assistance they receive needed to change their behaviors and remain disease-free. This study suggests that there is a need for treatment and interventions to enhance social support after diagnosis of life-threatening disease, such as breast cancer, in order to prevent recurrence.

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