Breast cancer nurse specialists are to help patients cope with their fear of the disease returning through a new study on the subject.
Dr Susanne Cruickshank, a nursing academic at Stirling University, has been awarded over £23,600 from the charity Breast Cancer Now to support her research work on fear of cancer recurrence.
“The fear of cancer returning is a major concern among survivors”
The study will help health professionals identify patients who have moderate to high levels of fear about the recurrence of their cancer, and deliver an intervention that improves their ability to live their life with a better quality of outlook.
Dr Cruickshank and her team will explore the feasibility of using Mini-AFTER, an intervention that has been designed to identify and address fear of cancer recurrence.
The intervention is a brief, 30-minute phone call that builds on the success of a longer, six-session programme called AFTER, which has been shown to help improve quality of life for cancer survivors.
As part of the research, Dr Cruickshank will survey specialist breast cancer nurses across the UK to establish current working practices on how they identify and work with breast cancer patients to provide support on fears of recurrence.
This will be followed by more in-depth interviews with a smaller group of nurses to explore the challenges, barriers and opportunities of introducing this specific intervention into clinical settings.
The long-term goal for the project is to ensure that patients have access to effective interventions that can reduce anxiety and fear associated with their cancer recurring, and improve their ability to live their life fully, said Dr Cruickshank.
Specialist nurses to help reduce fear of cancer recurrence
It is also seeking to ensure that health professionals are provided with the “right support, training and skills” to use such interventions in their practice. The pilot work will inform a future trial.
Dr Susanne Cruickshank said: “The fear of cancer returning is a major concern among survivors.
“Breast cancer can return any time after treatment, sometimes up to 20 years or more post diagnosis,” she said. “It’s this fear of the unknown that can cause distress.
“That’s why it’s important that we develop and successfully deliver new methods to help survivors manage this fear,” she said.
Mary Allison, director for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, added: “We hope this research can help women with breast cancer to have the best quality of life after their treatment.”