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Introduction: Breast cancer patients and their caregivers living in rural Appalachia face substantial health disparities compared to their non-rural Appalachian counterparts. However, there is limited research on how these specific health disparities in rural Appalachian communities may impact patient psychological distress and caregiver strain during the first year of breast cancer treatment.
Purpose: The purpose of the current study was to assess differences in patient psychological distress (depression and anxiety) and caregiver strain between rural non-rural Appalachian breast-cancer-affected dyads (patients and their caregivers) during the first year of treatment.
Methods: A total of 48 Appalachian breast cancer patients (with a Stage I through Stage III diagnosis) and their identified caregiver (together, ‘dyads’) were identified from The University of Tennessee Medical Center across 2019 to 2020. Dyads completed follow-up surveys throughout the first year of treatment. In this prospective pilot study, measures on anxiety, depression and caregiver strain were self-reported and then analyzed using RM-ANOVA.
Results: There was a statistically significant higher number of reports of patient depression and caregiver strain in rural-residing dyads compared to non-rural-residing dyads. However, there was not a statistically significant difference between rural and non-rural Appalachian dyads for patient-reported anxiety during the first year of treatment.
Implications: The higher reported patient depression and caregiver strain among rural-residing Appalachian patients may indicate the need for implementing remote (e.g., telehealth) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to address the psychological needs of rural-residing dyads. Additionally, greater education from physicians to rural dyads on what to expect during treatment could alleviate caregiver strain.
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Tasman J, McAdams CD, Lloyd J, Brooks AJ, Roberson PNE. Differences in distress between rural and non-rural Appalachian breast cancer patient / caregiver dyads during the first year of treatment. J Appalach Health 2022;4(3):56–70. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0403.04.