Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether participation in a group psychosocial intervention by patients with breast cancer would result in an improvement in psychological measures and in reduced billings in general medical expenses.
Description of study: Eligible women who had completed treatment for stage 0, I, or II primary breast cancer were prospectively and randomly assigned to either the intervention (n=46) or control (n=43) group. Both groups received the usual psychosocial care; however, the intervention group also participated in six weekly cognitive/behavioral psychosocial meetings. All were assessed on psychiatric symptoms, mood, depression, and coping strategies at four time periods: pre-intervention, post-intervention, 1-year follow-up, and 2-year follow-up. Alberta Healthcare billing records were obtained covering the 2-year follow-up period to determine the amount billed per person over the course of the study.
Results: Women in the intervention group had less depression, less overall mood disturbance, better overall quality of life, and fewer psychiatric symptoms than those in the control group, beginning immediately post-intervention and remaining so at 2 years post-intervention. Billing in the intervention group was an average of $147 less than in the control group, a 23.5% reduction.
Clinical implications: This is the first study to show that a psychosocial intervention can reduce direct healthcare billings in a sample of patients with cancer. Importantly, these findings help to justify the routine availability of such programs in cancer treatment facilities worldwide.