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Keywords:

  • internet;
  • primary breast carcinoma;
  • social support group;
  • web;
  • cancer

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Women with breast carcinoma commonly experience psychologic distress following their diagnosis. Women who participate in breast cancer support groups have reported significant reduction in their psychologic distress and pain and improvement in the quality of their lives. Web-based breast cancer social support groups are widely used, but little is known of their effectiveness. Preliminary evidence suggests that women benefit from their participation in web-based support groups.

METHODS

Seventy-two women with primary breast carcinoma were assigned randomly to a 12-week, web-based, social support group (Bosom Buddies). The group was semistructured, moderated by a health care professional, and delivered in an asynchronous newsgroup format.

RESULTS

The results indicate that a web-based support group can be useful in reducing depression and cancer-related trauma, as well as perceived stress, among women with primary breast carcinoma. The effect sizes ranged from 0.38 to 0.54. Participants perceived a variety of benefits and high satisfaction from their participation in the intervention

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrated that the web-based program, Bosom Buddies, was effective in reducing participants' scores on depression, perceived stress, and cancer-related trauma measures. The effect size of the intervention was in the moderate range. Although web-based social support groups offer many advantages, this delivery mechanism presents a number of ethical issues that need to be addressed. Cancer 2003;97:1164–73. © 2003 American Cancer Society.

DOI 10.1002/cncr.11174