This study examined distress, coping, and group support among a sample of rural women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. We recruited 100 women who had been diagnosed with primary breast cancer at one of two time points in their medical treatment: either within a window up to 3 months after their diagnosis of breast cancer, or within 6 months after completing medical treatment for breast cancer. Their mean age was 58.6 years (SD = 11.6), and 90% were of white/European American ethnicity. Women completed a battery of demographic and psychosocial measures prior to being randomized into a psychoeducational intervention study, and then again 3 months later at a follow-up assessment. The focus of this article is on the women's self-reported psychosocial status at baseline. Many of the women experienced considerable traumatic stress regarding their breast cancer. However, this distress was not reflected in a standard measure of mood disturbance that is frequently used in intervention research (the Profile of Mood States). The average woman considered her diagnosis of breast cancer to be among the four most stressful life events that she had ever experienced. Also, women on average reported a high level of helplessness/hopelessness in coping with their cancer. On average, women felt that they "often" (but not "very often") received instrumental assistance, emotional support, and informational support. Women varied considerably in which kind of social group provided them with the most support, with as many reporting that they found the greatest support in spiritual/church groups or within their family units as with breast or general cancer groups. These results suggest that among these rural women with breast cancer, distress with the diagnosis of breast cancer must be carefully assessed, as women who are highly distressed about their breast cancer may not report general mood disturbance. Furthermore, the kinds of groups that rural women with breast cancer experience as most supportive need to be identified so that psychosocial interventions can be matched to breast cancer patients' individual needs.
View details for PubMedID 11348412