Part of the struggle for women is that changing their behavior serves as a daily reminder of their breast cancer, she notes. "Taking precautions requires attending to the fact they had cancer, which makes many women depressed and anxious."
To investigate what helps women make such dramatic behavioral changes, Miller and her colleagues met with 103 women immediately after breast cancer surgery to discuss lymphedema and their attitudes about it, and provided materials from the American Cancer Society on how to reduce their risk. They then checked in with women later to see how well they had adhered to the advice.
Six months later, only 50% of women appeared to be diligently following the recommendations. Daily behavioral changessuch as wearing gloves when doing household chores, or using an electric shaverwere the hardest to maintain.
One important factor in the rate of adherence was women's attitudespecifically, women were most likely to take steps to reduce their risk of lymphedema if they felt confident they could physically follow the recommendations, believed these behaviors would control their risk, and had strategies to cope with stress. For instance, says Miller, a woman needed to feel confident she wouldn't forget to put on gloves every time she did housework, and could calm herself down if these permanent changes in behavior created anxiety about being a cancer survivor.
|Contact: Diana Quattrone|
Fox Chase Cancer Center