Online Program

Using stem cell transplant (SCT) survivor narratives to identify survivor challenges and coping strategies

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yael Filossof, MSPH, Department of Health Behavior, UNC Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC
Rebecca Woodruff, MPH, Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA
Laura Baker, Department of Health Behavior, UNC Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC
Jane Austin, PhD, Department of Psychology, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ
Lisa Wu, PhD, Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY
Heiddis Valdimarsdottir, PhD, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Reykjavik, Iceland
William Redd, PhD, Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai Hospital School of Medicine, New York, NY
Christine Rini, PhD, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Although hematopoietic stem cell transplant (SCT) can save the lives of many hematological cancer patients, it is a physically and psychologically demanding treatment. SCT patients are often informed about physical and psychosocial challenges they might encounter, but many are nonetheless unprepared for the range of challenges they experience and struggle to cope with them. Survivorship narratives-stories written by cancer patients about their experience–can illuminate their most critical challenges and provide guidance for developing interventions to address these needs. This presentation describes a content analysis of post-SCT survivorship narratives conducted to identify patients' specific challenges and resources for coping before, during, and after transplant. SCT patients enrolled in a trial testing a psychosocial intervention (n=248) wrote narratives describing their transplant experience in four brief guided writing sessions. Although participants commonly reported physical symptoms, this study revealed a range of intra- and interpersonal challenges. Most patients felt unprepared about important aspects of the transplant and encountered difficulty communicating with their providers. Common coping strategies that may have helped them manage these challenges included talking with other SCT survivors and researching the transplant on their own. Quotations describing transplant experiences in patients' own words provide a nuanced look into these challenges and coping strategies. The results have implications for interventions to improve the quality of life of SCT patients, suggesting the need to help providers communicate more effectively with SCT patients about challenges they might face. These results also illuminate specific coping strategies for providers to suggest to their patients.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify common transplant and cancer-specific challenges that SCT patients encountered. Identify SCT patients’ common resources for coping with the transplant. Analyze implications for future interventions to improve the quality of life of SCT patients.

Keyword(s): Cancer, Coping

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a second year doctoral student at the UNC Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Department of Health Behavior. I am committed to a research career devoted to improving the quality of care and quality of life of cancer survivors.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.