Text Messaging Intervention Improves Quality of Life, Lowers Distress Related to Chemotherapy in Early-Stage Breast Cancer Patients

June 4, 2018

Kuang-Yi Wen, PhDKuang-Yi Wen, PhD

PHILADELPHIA (June 4, 2018) – Early stage breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may find that a text messaging-based intervention helps alleviate some of the dreaded side effects of treatment.

In a randomized study, researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center studied how text messaging could potentially help women cope with the side effects of chemotherapy. Women in the study received two text messages every day – one at 9 am and another at 3 pm – for four months. The messages included content developed from the Fox Chase Resource and Education Center, the American Cancer Society, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, National Cancer Institute, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The afternoon text messages asked participants if they wanted additional information about topics like fatigue, body image, and neuropathy.

“Chemotherapy is a journey,” said Kuang-Yi Wen, an assistant professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control program and lead author on the study. “Patients are dealing with nausea, vomiting, hair loss, body changes, and a lot of emotion. The text messaging was a way to connect the gap when they’re home.”

Researchers measured efficacy at the beginning of the study and after each month. Patients who received the text messages reported significantly lower distress over symptoms and had higher health-related quality of life at months two and four compared to a group that received only a booklet on dealing with chemotherapy. The intervention group also reported significant improvements in self-efficacy and doctor-patient communication at month one.

“Women felt like they were getting bursts of information over time rather than all at once and it was always on their phone to go back and look at,” Wen said. “They want to feel supported, empowered, and in control. One patient told us the text messages were a daily support that she did not have otherwise.”

The program allowed patients to text back, and participants texted back to the system a total of 8,412 times requesting additional information. Wen also found that the older the patient was, the more likely they were to text back, eliminating concerns that text messaging interventions would not be useful in older populations.

“The good thing about this type of system is that it allows different information seeking behaviors,” Wen said. “One patient texted back to the system more than 1,200 times asking for more information and we were able to provide her with that support.”

Wen presented her findings as part of the ASCO annual meeting in Chicago on June 4.

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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