Sunday, May 16, 2010

eHealth Can Help Survivors

The Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University with NIH funding is developing Clinical Trial (NCT01114802) to study how multiple telecommunications technologies can be used to improve cancer survivors’ access to mental healthcare. Nearly 65 percent of individuals diagnosed with cancer will survive for at least 5 years, which means we have almost 10.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S.

However, the transition time for cancer patients from active treatment to survivorship has been identified as a time of high risk for depression and anxiety. Cancer survivors experience higher rates of anxiety and depression than those without a cancer history. Research has identified fear of recurrence, perceived loss of support, and social pressure to resume a normal life among other phenomena as sources for this emotional distress.

Only 20 percent of all patients referred for psychotherapy enter treatment and of those who initiate treatment, nearly half drop out before completion. This suggests that there are significant barriers to receiving care.

The internet promises to provide inexpensive access to treatment 24/7 but so far the potential for internet delivered services has not been realized. Studies examining treatments that simply provide access to an internet site commonly result in a very high dropout after the first site visit and very offer little or no improvement in targeting symptoms.

In general, e-mail support improves adherence and telephone support can improve adherence even more. Another type of support that has only begun to be investigated is the use of social networks to help maintain adherence.

The study called “Project Onward” is currently recruiting participants for the estimated enrollment of 72 and is expected to be completed by June 2011. For more information, go to or email Jennifer Duffecy, PhD, at or David Mohr, PhD, at