Dr. Jennifer Jones

Research Demonstrating the Importance of Supporting Cancer Survivors

Dr. Jennifer JonesEvery year, funding from the OneWalk to Conquer Cancer is put towards The Walkers Innovation Program. These grants support researchers and new ideas that have the potential for advancing scientific knowledge of women’s cancers, that otherwise might not receive funding.
Through the Walkers Innovation Program, Dr. Jennifer Jones, a scientist with the Breast Cancer Survivorship Program at The Princess Margaret, received funding to study the importance of providing support to women who have completed treatment, and who are transitioning to what is often called the “survivor” phase. This period of time in the cancer journey can often be a stressful one for patients – just one reason why The Princess Margaret gives focus to this stage.
Dr. Jones recently evaluated a two-hour psychoeducational group session, called Getting Back on Track (GBOT). The purpose of the session was to assist women in making the transition from being an active cancer patient to a survivor and to provide information on topics such as what their new health care team will look like, self management of common side effects, healthy eating, dealing with emotions and finding survivorship resources in their community.
Led by a multi-disciplinary team, Dr. Jones recruited and studied two groups of breast cancer survivors—one group was given a Getting Back on Track: Life after Treatment booklet and the other group received the same booklet and also attended the two-hour group GBOT session. Participants in both groups were asked to complete a questionnaire package at the beginning of the study and then again after three months and after six months following completion of their cancer treatment.
Through this research, Dr. Jones and her team recently published a paper describing the women in this study in which they explored the relationship between preparedness and self-efficacy along with personal and clinical factors with feelings of distress at this transition time. What Dr. Jones and her team found was that women who did not feel that their team had prepared them for the post-treatment follow-up period and who did not feel a sense of control or confidence in their ability to mange the tasks and challenges, faced higher levels of distress. In addition, women who were younger and who had received more aggressive forms of treatment also reported higher levels of distress and may be in need of additional support. The team concluded that this stage of the cancer journey needs to be recognized by medical professionals as a challenging transition period requiring routine screening for mood disorders as part of the standard of care. Further, the development of targeted and effective interventions and programs to support and meet the needs of women during this time, is also required. 
“Interventions aimed at increasing women’s sense of control over their recovery through the promotion of self-efficacy and feelings of preparedness, have the potential to result in better psychological adjustment at the end of treatment for breast cancer,” says Dr. Jones. “In this regard, we have recently completed a large randomized controlled trial, funded by the Walkers Innovation Program, to evaluate the acceptability and effectiveness of Getting Back on Track (GBOT) offered at The Princess Margaret.”
The results of this evaluation are encouraging and the plan moving forward is to adapt GBOT so that it can be a sustainable intervention offered to all women completing treatment.