Social network support for young women with breast cancer: findings from the Macmillan HORIZONS Programme.


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Ivaylo Vassilev, Sharon Lin, Jane Frankland, Lynn Calman, Joshua Turner, Anne Rogers, Claire Foster

Abstract

Background

Social support plays a key role in quality of life and illness management of cancer survivors. However, the pattern of such support is not understood in detail. We report baseline (pre-treatment) levels of social support from a UK prospective cohort of young women with a breast cancer diagnosis under 50 years of age.





Method

Data were collected via self-completion questionnaire, as part of a UK prospective cohort study of recovery of health and wellbeing post cancer treatment. Participants reported on level of illness, practical and emotional support for up to 20 of their social network members. Descriptive, and univariate and multivariate regression analysis explored associations between network member characteristics and type of self-management support received.

Results

Network members provide a substantial amount of support soon after diagnosis, with most contribution to emotional support, followed by illness, then practical support. Most support was provided by friends and close family members. Partners provided the most practical and emotional support and healthcare professionals contributed the most illness support. Univariate and multivariate analysis indicated a number of respondent characteristics, including socioeconomic status, to be associated with receipt of the different types of support. These will be explored in the presentation.

Conclusion

A network perspective can help identify people at most risk of low levels of support, develop tailored support and network-based interventions by considering the interactions between network- and individual-level processes involved in living with the consequences of cancer. Further analyses will explore network-support changes over time.

Impact statement

Better understanding of levels of network support can aid the development of interventions to support self-management and wellbeing of people LWBC.