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    Research Grants Awarded

    Project Connect: Enhancing Connections During Breast Cancer

    Study Section:
    Psychosocial and Complementary Treatment Approache

    Scientific Abstract:
    Background: Although social support is a vital contributor to well-being in women with breast cancer, few interventions have targeted women?s communication with their social network (other than the marital relationship). The proposed research is designed to develop a pathway for aiding women with breast cancer to manage communication. Specifically, we will develop and provide a first test of Project Connect, a program for women with breast cancer to design personal web pages to chronicle their experience and communicate with important others. Objective/Hypotheses: Our objective is to conduct three studies to develop and test Project Connect. The major hypothesis (Study 3) is that, compared to a standard care control, women who create web pages will demonstrate enhanced self-efficacy for managing cancer, increased cancer-related emotional expression and social support, and improved mood. Specific Aims: The aims are to: (1) examine the experience of women with breast cancer who have developed personal web pages to identify potentially effective contents and consequences of this approach; (2) examine preferences for and facilitators/barriers to creating web pages in focus groups of breast cancer patients; (3) conduct a randomized, controlled preliminary study of feasibility and efficacy of Project Connect, a program for teaching women to design web pages to chronicle their experience with breast cancer and communicate with others. Study Design: The three research phases correspond to the aims. First, we will conduct interviews with 8 women who have developed web pages to communicate with others about their cancer experience, querying web page content/functions and consequences of web page use. Second, we will conduct two focus groups of 6-8 women with breast cancer to explore preferences for web page contents/functions and facilitators/barriers in their development. Third, we will randomly assign 66 women in treatment for breast cancer to Project Connect, a program to teach web page development/use, or to a standard care control. Prior to and 1 month and 6 months after randomization, we will assess perceived self-efficacy in managing the cancer experience, emotional expression, social support, distress and positive mood. Potential Outcomes and Benefits: Most interventions to improve social support for women with breast cancer have involved the spouse or groups of breast cancer patients. To our knowledge, this is the first intervention directed toward optimizing supportive responses from friends and family, groups who can provide crucial support. Carefully grounded in theory and research, our ultimate goal is to promote the well-being of women who confront breast cancer and of those who care for them. Assuming supporting data on the feasibility and efficacy of Project Connect, a larger trial will be conducted to refine and enhance the intervention

    Lay Abstract:
    Background: Communication between the woman diagnosed with breast cancer and her social network can be challenging, as both search for effective ways to give and receive support. The proposed research is designed to develop a pathway for aiding women to manage communication during treatment and recovery. Specifically, we will develop and provide a first test of Project Connect, a program for teaching women with breast cancer to design personal web pages in order to chronicle their experience and communicate with friends and family members. Hypothesis: The major hypothesis is that women who create web pages will demonstrate improvements in their sense of ability to manage the cancer experience, social support and emotional expression, and mood, compared to women who do not receive the intervention. Specific Aims: Aims are to: (1) examine the experience of women with breast cancer who have developed personal web pages to identify potentially effective contents and consequences of this approach; (2) understand breast cancer patients? preferences for creating web pages; (3) conduct a randomized (i.e., comparable to selecting groups via a coin flip) study to compare the effectiveness of Project Connect, a program for teaching women to design web pages, with a standard care control (i.e., women who receive standard medical and supportive services). Study Design: The research phases correspond to the aims. First, we will conduct interviews with 8 women who have developed web pages to communicate with others about their cancer experience, querying web page content/functions and consequences of use. Second, we will conduct two focus groups of 6-8 women with breast cancer to explore preferences for web page contents/functions and facilitators/barriers to development/use. Third, we will randomly assign 66 women in treatment for breast cancer to Project Connect, a hands-on program to teach web page development/use, or to a standard care control group. Prior to and 1 month and 6 months after randomization, we will assess perceived ability to manage the cancer experience, emotional expression, social support, distress and positive mood to measure the intervention?s effects. Potential Outcomes and Benefits: Most interventions to improve social support for women with breast cancer have involved the husband/partner or groups of breast cancer patients. To our knowledge, this is the first intervention directed toward maximizing supportive responses from friends and family, groups who can provide crucial support. The ultimate goal of the research is to promote the well-being of women who confront breast cancer and of those who care for them.