BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The breast cancer pretreatment period -- the
time during which a woman is diagnosed, meets with physicians and
awaits initial treatment -- can be extremely distressing, lonely
and confusing. Research demonstrates that approximately one-third
of women diagnosed with breast cancer will develop symptoms such as
depression and post-traumatic stress at some point in the course of
their illness. These symptoms may continue for up to 20 years after
According to Robin Lally, PhD, RN, assistant professor in the UB
School of Nursing, giving women tools to support their adjustment
to breast cancer early after diagnosis is believed to be the key to
reduce this psychological burden.
Lally has received an American Cancer Society Mentored Research
Scholar Grant for more than $700,000 to develop and pilot test a
tailored, Internet-based education program to help support the
initial psychological adjustment to breast cancer during the
The ACS Mentored Research Scholar Grant, which will fund Lally's
research, mentoring and training from 2011 to 2016, provides
support to full-time junior faculty with the goal of encouraging
beginning investigators to become independent researchers as either
clinician scientists or cancer control and prevention
Lally's mentors for this project are Jean Brown, PhD, RN, FAAN
and dean of the UB School of Nursing; Karen Meneses, PhD, RN and
associate dean for research, University of Alabama School of
Nursing; and Deborah Erwin, PhD, director of Cancer Health
Disparities Research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
For the past 13 years, Lally has been studying the way women
think after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. In 2005, her
research began to focus on the development of a theory of the
thought processes and behaviors associated with the early
psychological adjustment to breast cancer in the highly distressing
days and weeks immediately following diagnosis.
"My work focuses on the stressful period just following receipt
of a breast cancer diagnosis. Since many women receive their
diagnosis from a mammography center or their general practitioner
and then must identify a clinic and wait to see a breast surgeon,
they are often left alone to deal with their anxiety. Through this
project, we hope to intervene during this critical time by
addressing coping and adjustment needs early," said Lally.
The Internet-based system she will be developing has distinct
advantages for delivering the information these patients may need.
According to Lally, an Internet-based format will allow women to be
reached as soon as possible after a diagnosis. It also allows the
patient to control the rate at which she acquaints herself with the
diagnosis and related information. The patient receives the
information -- in private -- and in a consistent, tailored and
repeatable way, in a manner that supports her emotional
While it is unclear why some women have more difficulty
adjusting to breast cancer than others, Lally says, studies suggest
that processing and assimilating the experience is associated with
a better mental outlook as opposed to avoidance and shutting down,
which are associated with greater distress.
What is important is that this ACS-funded education program is
an opportunity to reach women, psychologically, at a time when
research has demonstrated that the emotional needs of breast cancer
patients are often overlooked.
Lally will carry out the project in four phases: content
development and evaluation for the Internet-based program; site
prototypes that allow for patient feedback; culturally diverse
breast cancer survivor focus group evaluations; and the actual
pilot study, which will pre- and post-test women newly diagnosed
with early-stage disease.
"It is my hope that this program will prove to enhance the
psychosocial care radiologic diagnostic centers, and nurses and
physicians in busy clinic settings are able to provide to women
soon after informing them they have breast cancer," said Lally.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.