Aims: The aims of this study were to determine whether a radiation therapist (RT) led education and support intervention for women with early breast cancer reduced anxiety and depression, decreased concerns about radiotherapy, increased patient knowledge of radiotherapy and improved patient preparedness.
Methods: A multiple baseline study was conducted with sites in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Patients were eligible if they were scheduled to receive radiotherapy for early breast cancer. The intervention comprised two consultations with an RT, prior to treatment planning and on the first day of treatment. Consultations focused on providing sensory and procedural information to patients and reducing pre-treatment anxiety. RTs received communication and consultation skills training. Usual care data were collected prior to starting the intervention at each site. Measures were collected on four occasions: after meeting with their radiation oncologist, prior to treatment planning, on the first day of treatment and after treatment completion. Outcome measures included anxiety and depression (measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), patient preparedness (Cancer Treatment Survey), concerns about radiotherapy (Concerns about RT scale) and patient knowledge of radiotherapy (Knowledge of RT scale). Generalised Linear Mixed Models were used to test the significance of between group comparisons.
Results: Usual care was received by 218 participants and 190 received the intervention. Significant between group differences were found for anxiety at the commencement of treatment and after treatment completion (p<0.05). However, there were no significant differences for depression. Additional significant differences were found for patient preparedness (at all subsequent time points), patient concerns about radiotherapy (prior to treatment planning and at treatment commencement) and knowledge about RT (prior to treatment planning and treatment commencement) (p<0.05).
Conclusion: This intervention was effective in reducing breast cancer patients’ anxiety and preparing them for treatment. Future work needs to focus on implementation.