Objective: Variables associated with levels of, and change in, social support were identified in a cohort of early stage breast cancer patients and age-matched controls. Method: Telephone interviews measuring perceived social support and other demographic and psychosocial variables were conducted at 4 to 6 weeks and 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery (patients) or a normal/benign screening mammogram (controls). We modeled the intercept (starting point) and slope (changing) aspects of social support. Results: Participants included 542 controls and 541 patients (77% White, 23% African American; mean age 57.7 years [SD = 10.6]). Most participants reported high social support. Patients reported significantly higher levels of social support at baseline than controls. For patients, social support had a significant negative slope that significantly varied between individuals; the intercept of social support also varied significantly. Predictors of lower social support intercept in patients included not being married/partnered, being White, having lower perceived general health, and having higher negative affect (a latent variable defined by anxiety and depression symptom severity). Patients who were African American (vs. White) or had mastectomy (vs. lumpectomy) had steeper social support declines, and participants with both these characteristics had lower starting points as well as steeper declines. Social support among controls did not change significantly. Conclusions: Clinicians might consider psychosocial interventions for patients reporting low social support around the time of diagnosis and surgical treatment, and for patients at risk for steeper declines in support, such as African Americans and women undergoing mastectomy.
- Breast cancer
- Social support