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Hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) survivors may show evidence of objective cognitive impairment; however, perceived cognitive problems and their impact on quality of life are less well-understood. The purpose of this study was to explore HSCT survivors’ perceptions of cognitive impairment and its effect on daily life functioning.
Sixty-nine autologous and allogeneic HSCT survivors nine months to three years posttransplant experiencing mild survivorship problems completed a brief structured interview regarding perceived cognitive impairment since transplant. Data were coded and content analyzed. The frequency of participants reporting cognitive problems by domain and associations between reports of cognitive problems and age, depressed mood, anxiety, and health-related quality of life were examined.
Overall, 49 of the 69 participants (71%) reported cognitive impairments after transplant: 38 in memory (55%), 29 in attention and concentration (42%), and smaller numbers in other domains. There were no significant differences in problems reported by transplant type. Of the 50 participants who worked before transplant, 19 (38%) did not return to work following transplant, with 12 citing cognitive and health problems as being the reason. There were significant associations between reports of cognitive impairment and younger age (p = 0.02), depressed mood (p = 0.02), anxiety (p = 0.002), and health-related quality of life (p = 0.008).
Significance of results
A large proportion of survivors reported cognitive impairment following HSCT that impaired daily life functioning. Perceived cognitive impairment was associated with younger age, greater distress and reduced health-related quality of life.
Persistent pain is common and inadequately treated in cancer patients. Behavioral pain interventions are a recommended part of multimodal pain treatments, but they are underused in clinical care due to barriers such as a lack of the resources needed to deliver them in person and difficulties coordinating their use with clinical care. Pain coping skills training (PCST) is an evidence-based behavioral pain intervention traditionally delivered in person. Delivering this training via the web would increase access to it by addressing barriers that currently limit its use. We conducted a patient pilot study of an 8-week web-based PCST program to determine the acceptability of this approach to patients and the program features needed to meet their needs. Focus groups with healthcare providers identified strategies for coordinating the use of web-based PCST in clinical care.
Participants included 7 adults with bone pain due to multiple myeloma or metastasized breast or prostate cancer and 12 healthcare providers (4 physicians and 8 advanced practice providers) who treat cancer-related bone pain. Patients completed web-based PCST at home and then took part in an in-depth qualitative interview. Providers attended focus groups led by a trained moderator. Qualitative analyses identified themes in the patient and provider data.
Patients reported strongly favorable responses to web-based PCST and described emotional and physical benefits. They offered suggestions for adapting the approach to better fit their needs and to overcome barriers to completion. Focus groups indicated a need to familiarize healthcare providers with PCST and to address concerns about overburdening patients. Providers would recommend the program to patients they felt could benefit. They suggested applying a broad definition of cancer pain and having various types of providers help coordinate program its use with clinical care.
Significance of results:
Web-based PCST was acceptable to patients and providers. Our findings suggest that patients could benefit from this approach, especially if patient and provider barriers are addressed.
People who undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are highly dependent on their caregiver during their lengthy treatment and recovery. The effectiveness of their caregiver's social support can profoundly affect their day-to-day treatment experiences and, in turn, how they recall those experiences and are affected by them long after the treatment ends.
Our participants were 182 men and women who had undergone a transplant within the previous 9 months to 3 years. They completed baseline measures (including a measure of caregiver social support effectiveness) and then completed three writing assignments describing their transplant experiences. Linguistic analyses were conducted to investigate their use of words indicating negative emotions, cognitive processing (insight and causation), and practical problems with money and insurance. Theory-based hypotheses predicted associations between specific functional types of caregiver support (emotional, informational, and instrumental) and these word categories.
As hypothesized, the effectiveness of different functional types of support from a caregiver were uniquely associated with theoretically relevant categories of word use. Structural equation models indicated that more effective caregiver emotional support predicted lower use of negative emotion words; more effective caregiver informational support predicted lower use of causation words; and more effective caregiver instrumental support predicted lower use of words related to money and insurance.
Significance of results:
Our findings provide insights to guide research on the mechanisms through which caregiver support influences patient outcomes after stem cell transplantation. For instance, research suggests that these kinds of effects could have implications for survivors' current self-concept, psychosocial functioning, and meaning-making.
Survivors of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) have experienced a life threatening and potentially traumatic illness and treatment that make them vulnerable to long lasting negative psychological outcomes, including anxiety and depression. Nevertheless, studies show that overcoming cancer and its treatment can present an opportunity for personal growth and psychological health (reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression and high levels of emotional well-being) through resilience. However, research has not yet clarified what differentiates HSCT survivors who experience psychological growth from those who do not. By analyzing recovery narratives, we examined whether HSCT survivors’ interpretation of their experiences helps explain differences in their post-treatment psychological health.
Guided by narrative psychology theory, we analyzed the narratives of 23 HSCT survivors writing about their experience of cancer treatment. Psychological health was measured by: (1) emotional well-being subscale part of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Bone Marrow Transplant (FACT-BMT), (2) depression, and (3) anxiety subscales of the Brief Symptom Inventory.
Findings revealed a positive relation between psychological health and a greater number of redemption episodes (going from an emotionally negative life event to an emotionally positive one) as well as fewer negative emotional expressions.
Significance of the results:
Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed, showing how narratives can inform interventions to assist cancer survivors with their psychological recovery.
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