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eHealth platforms may aid in delivering supportive care, nutrition resources to metastatic breast cancer patients

Working in collaboration with a team of researchers, Natasha Renee Burse, a graduate research assistant and doctor of public health (DrPH) candidate at Penn State College of Medicine, explored opportunities for cancer patients to access supportive care and nutrition information through digital platforms. Burse was part of an analysis team and co-authored the report, titled Understanding Nutritional Problems of Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients.

Typically, lifestyle interventions target patients in the early stages of breast cancer. With a growing number of women living with stage IV breast cancer, this study explores nutritional problems and concerns, as well as better ways to address the needs of metastatic breast cancer patients.

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Natasha Burse, DrPH student

Natasha Burse, DrPH student

Published in Cancer Nursing, the report includes data from metastatic breast cancer patients, participating in the Addressing Metastatic Individuals Everyday (or Nurse AMIE) program at Penn State Cancer Institute in 2017. Twenty-one women were interviewed to gain patient insight on an array of nutrition-related topics including reasons to change their diet, nutritional information and communication needs, knowledge, and problems.

From the interviews, researchers uncovered the following common themes among the study participants:

  • Knowledge about nutrition: What do patients know about nutrition’s role in the context of metastatic breast cancer?
  • Nutrition information seeking: Where do women go for information about nutrition and metastatic breast cancer?
  • Social aspects of nutrition: How does metastatic breast cancer impact dietary activities such as grocery shopping, cooking, and dining with others?
  • Interest in nutrition: How important is nutrition to a patient’s physical wellbeing and quality of life?
  • How to address nutrition with eHealth platforms: How would metastatic breast cancer patients like to receive nutritional information? What nutrition-related topics could be conveyed using a digital platform?

According to the findings, patients want more nutrition-related resources specific to their disease, because dietary issues are rarely discussed during routine clinical care. Metastatic breast cancer patients expressed interest in receiving health information from reliable sources, advice and recipes via eHealth platforms.

Joining Burse on this qualitative study were Penn State’s Laura J. Wolf, MSW; Erica Schleicher, MS; Scherezade K. Mama, DrPH, Shirley Bluethmann, PhD, MPH, and Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, along with Dorien L. Oostra, MSc, from Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, and Renate M. Winkels, PhD, from Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands.

Burse was also the lead author on another recently completed and published study, titled Physical Activity Barriers and Resources Among Black Women With a History of Breast and Endometrial Cancer: A Systematic Review. Read more about that project here.

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