Understanding the effectiveness of interventions for cancer patients: A study of patient characteristics and intervention evaluations
Managing cancer-related sequelae has become increasingly important as individuals live longer with the burdens of cancer and its treatments. Data suggest that psychosocial and behavioral interventions provide a feasible way of reducing the burdens experienced by cancer patients. Understanding intervention efficacy is a central question that must be addressed. Patient characteristics (e.g., age, income, and type of surgery) and intervention evaluations (e.g., satisfaction, group experiences, group cohesion, and utilization of intervention techniques) may influence treatment outcomes. Past studies with cancer patients have not examined these variables. The present study used data from the Stress and Immunity Breast Cancer Project to (1) identify patient characteristics that moderate treatment outcomes, (2) examine patient characteristics associated with intervention evaluations, utilization of intervention techniques, and attendance, and (3) examine the association between treatment outcomes, utilization of intervention techniques, and attendance. Our data suggest that the intervention was particularly beneficial for women who had greater cancer-related distress, fewer educational resources, and surgical treatment with mastectomy. We found significant associations between use of intervention techniques and positive treatment outcomes: (a) relaxation was associated with decreased emotional distress, (b) assertive communication and strategies for increasing social support were associated with improved perceptions of family support, (c) techniques for eating less fat and communicating with medical providers were associated with improved dietary habits, (d) exercise was associated with lower treatment side effects, and (e) techniques for communicating with medical providers and exercise were associated with better compliance with recommended chemotherapy regimens. Finally, women with more personal resources (higher education, higher income, and a larger social network), lower levels of neuroticism, and greater feelings of group cohesion were more likely to attend intervention sessions. Findings from the current study provide valuable and unique information for designing dismantling studies and developing future interventions for cancer patients.