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Advisor: A Leader, Ph.D., MPH Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA


An emerging key theme in breast cancer research is the importance of relationships and social support in terms of improving patient outcomes. When both patients and spouses or partners are included in interventions to improve communication and social support, both parties are better able to manage stress and navigate psychosocial resources. The purpose of this project was to build on existing literature on caregiver burden in spouses/partners of breast cancer patients to establish a caregiver continuum of care that accounts for the unique journeys and needs of spouses/partners. This project approached research aims via a qualitative examination, consisting of telephone interviews with 10 individuals whose spouses have been diagnosed breast cancer. Spouses were recruited via an online support group for cancer patients and caregivers. Each semi-structured interview lasted approximately 30 minutes. Emergent themes in the data included a linkage between roles played at each stage of the continuum of care and spousal emotions. The data revealed that spouses find making medical decisions more stressful than other caregiving roles and that uncertainty throughout the continuum of care contributes to worry and stress experienced. Spouses of breast cancer patients are in need of social and emotional support, but do not feel comfortable with current support group options. Support groups for spouses and partners should be conducted in one-on-one small group settings and should be clear that groups are for spouses or partners. As support groups for caregivers and spouses of breast cancer patients grow more prominent, this project offers a basis for structuring these programs. This project will spur further research into the needs of spouses/partners throughout patients’ breast cancer journey to improve both spousal and patient outcomes.

Presentation: 25:48