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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Social Support Key for African-American Breast Cancer Patients

A decrease in social support can be detrimental to African-American women with breast cancer, according to research from the Washington University in St. Louis – Brown School Public Health Programs.

[Photo: Dr. Tess Thompson]

Researchers analyzed data collected from 2009 – 15 from 227 African-American women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Participants were interviewed five times over a two-year follow-up period.

Marriage, spirituality and fewer symptoms of depression were significantly associated with higher levels of perceived social support initially, and women whose social support decreased during the first year after diagnosis reported more severe depressive symptoms and worse general health a year later.

“Clinicians should periodically assess perceived social support among African-American women with breast cancer,” wrote the study’s lead author, Dr. Tess Thompson, research assistant professor at the Brown School.  Clinicians should then help find support resources for patients with low initial support and for those whose support declines in the first year after diagnosis.

The paper was published on-line in advance of the November issue of Social Science and Medicine.

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