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A pilot study assessing social support among cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials: a comparison of younger versus older adults

Authors Novotny P, Smith DJ, Guse L, Rummans TA, Hartmann L, Alberts S, Goldberg R, Gregory D, Johnson M, Sloan JA

Published 27 May 2010 Volume 2010:2 Pages 133—142


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Paul J Novotny1, Denise J Smith1, Lorna Guse2, Teresa A Rummans3, Lynn Hartmann4, Steven Alberts4, Richard Goldberg5, David Gregory6, Mary Johnson7, Jeff A Sloan1

1Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA; 2Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; 3Psychiatry, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA; 4Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA; 5Oncology Services, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA; 6Faculty of Health Sciences Nursing, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada; 7Chaplain Services, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

Purpose: This study tested the logistical feasibility of obtaining data on social support systems from cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials and compared the social support of older adults (age ≥65) and younger adults (<50 years of age) with cancer.

Methods: Patients had to be eligible for a phase II or phase III oncology clinical trial and enter the study prior to treatment. Patients filled out the Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS) at baseline. The Symptom Distress Scale (SDS) and single-item overall quality of life (QOL) Uniscale were assessed at baseline and weekly for 4 weeks.

Results: There was no significant difference in overall mean Lubben social support levels by age. Older patients had more relatives they felt close to (85% versus 53% with 5 or more relatives, P = 0.02), heard from more friends monthly (84% versus 53% with 3 or more friends, P = 0.02), less overall symptom distress (P = 0.03), less insomnia (P = 0.003), better concentration (P = 0.005), better outlook (P = 0.01), and less depression (P = 0.005) than younger patients.

Conclusions: Younger subjects reported worse symptoms, a smaller social support network, and fewer close friends and relatives than older subjects. Having someone to discuss decisions and seeing friends or relatives often was associated with longer survival.

Keywords: social support, Lubben scale, QOL, elderly

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