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Cancer. 2016 Aug 1;122(15):2408-17. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30036. Epub 2016 May 19.

Peer-counseling for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer: A randomized community/research collaboration trial.

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Psychosocial Oncology Division, Department of Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.
WomenCARE, Santa Cruz, California.
Martinez Outpatient Clinic and Community Living Center, VA Northern California Health Care System, Martinez, California.



We conducted a randomized controlled trial of peer-counseling for newly diagnosed breast cancer (BC) patients as a community/research collaboration testing an intervention developed jointly by a community-based-organization serving women with cancer and university researchers.


We recruited 104 women newly diagnosed with BC at any disease stage. Prior to randomization, all received a one-time visit with an oncology nurse who offered information and resources. Afterwards, we randomized half to receive a match with a Navigator with whom they could have contact for up to 6 months. We recruited, trained, and supervised 30 peer counselors who became "Navigators." They were at least one-year post-diagnosis with BC. Controls received no further intervention. We tested the effect of intervention on breast-cancer-specific well-being and trauma symptoms as primary outcomes, and several secondary outcomes. In exploratory analyses, we tested whether responding to their diagnosis as a traumatic stressor moderated outcomes.


We found that, compared with the control group, receiving a peer-counseling intervention significantly improved breast-cancer-specific well-being (p=0.01, Cohen's d=0.41) and maintained marital adjustment (p=0.01, Cohen's d=0.45) more effectively. Experiencing the diagnosis as a traumatic stressor moderated outcomes: those with a peer counselor in the traumatic stressor group improved significantly more than controls on well-being, trauma and depression symptoms, and cancer self-efficacy.


Having a peer counselor trained and supervised to recognize and work with trauma symptoms can improve well-being and psychosocial morbidity during the first year following diagnosis of BC. Cancer 2016;122:2408-2417. © 2016 American Cancer Society.


breast neoplasms; counseling; patient-navigation; posttraumatic stress; quality of life

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