DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Peer support is consistently and unambiguously recognized as benefiting women with breast cancer in their emotional adjustment and functional status. In the face of these findings it is disconcerting that face-to-face peer support interventions remain underutilized as recent surveys indicate that only 12 percent of breast cancer patients have participated in such groups. Travel distance, time investment, fatigue, among other factors can limit the extent to which women with breast cancer obtain face-to-face psychosocial support. The Internet has emerged as an exciting and potentially valuable tool in delivering psychosocial and educational interventions to persons with cancer, including being used as a conduit for peer support. Internet peer support is accessible from ones own home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, features that plausibly increase the accessibility and utilization of peer support for those who do not attend face-to-face support. This R21 application responds to PA 02-001 from the National Cancer Institute that invites research grant applications to conduct exploratory behavioral research in cancer control, specifically around issues related to improving quality of life. The primary aim of this study is to obtain preliminary data on impact of Internet peer support on the well-being, adjustment, and functioning of women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The proposed randomized study will provide data on the potential effectiveness of Internet peer support that if promising, will serve as the basis for a future R01 proposal. Internet peer support will be offered as an adjunct to Internet education provided through ONCOLINK, an Internet site devoted to cancer education and outreach that is administratively operated and controlled by the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center. The control group will consist of those who receive Internet education alone. A secondary aim of this pilot study is to assess the feasibility of various methods for understanding the Internet peer support process. The proposed process study will examine a number of key issues, including: 1) Level of participation in the online peer support intervention; 2) analysis of the online peer support communications; and 3) assessment of participant perceptions of the online support process. The products from this effort will serve as a basis for planning future behavioral and cancer control intervention research project grant applications (R01) based on the information.
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