Purpose: Many survivors of breast cancer experience an array of chronic symptoms, including pain, insomnia, and fatigue. Few effective therapies have been identified. Behavioral management programs to address similar symptom clusters in other chronic conditions have been effective. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of an Internet-based lifestyle and behavioral self-management program on cancer-related symptoms.
Patients and methods: Women with stage 0 to 3 breast cancer who reported insomnia, pain, or fatigue as their primary symptom of concern during the 7 days before enrollment were enrolled. Local therapies and/or chemotherapy were completed at least 3 months before enrollment. Patients were assessed at baseline and after 8 weeks, and they completed the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS)-29 Profile and Patient Global Impression of Change (PGIC) questionnaire electronically. Change in each of the eight symptom domains was assessed.
Results: Fifty patients enrolled. In the 45 patients with both baseline and 8-week PROMIS data, statistically significant improvements in anxiety, sleep, fatigue, activity level, and pain severity were reported. Of the 35 patients who responded to the PGIC, 62.9% reported improvement in their primary symptom. Those who reported fatigue as their primary symptom reported greatest overall benefit in multiple symptom improvement, including improvements in fatigue, anxiety, pain severity, pain interference, and participation in social activities.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that this lifestyle and behavioral management program may improve multiple symptoms in breast cancer survivors when delivered via the Internet. Randomized studies are warranted to evaluate the efficacy of the online intervention compared with standard symptom management approaches and to identify patients most likely to benefit.