Background: Feedback from breast cancer survivors via survey followed by a focus group revealed that the information given to them as newly diagnosed breast cancer patients was overwhelming—too much information, not given at the proper time, and they didn’t remember it. This feedback prompted us to create an educational program to address these issues. Interval education, the provision of education in a specific and focused fashion at key times, from diagnosis through survivorship, can be beneficial and effective.
Objective: We strove to create an educational program that met the needs of patients diagnosed with breast cancer throughout the course of their cancer journey.
Methods: An education program was developed organizing content according to what the patient can expect at each step in his or her cancer journey. Appropriate content was presented to the patient at the appropriate time, that is, time of diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. Education topics included: initial diagnosis overview and assessment of treatment barriers; surgical options; preoperative information; postoperative healing; radiation treatment; chemotherapy side effects; and survivorship. Several strategies were used with the goal of offering a program that addressed the needs of the patients. These included classroom teaching as well as individual sessions. Education also took place via telephone contact. Our program was supported and reinforced by educational materials approved by the hospital’s division of education to ensure that our patients received culturally, linguistically, and medically appropriate information. In addition, at our preoperative class, we offer hands-on experience in handling drains, prostheses, and accessories. A lymphedema therapist and a breast cancer survivor were present during these sessions.
Results: In the initial survey, only 27% of patients felt well informed when asked: “How prepared were you for your surgery and how you would feel afterwards?” After implementation of the education program, a repeat survey found that 83% of preoperative class attendees felt well prepared.
Conclusions/Implications: The education program resulted in patients feeling better prepared for surgery. The use of interval education, providing information approriate to the most immediate needs at the appropriate time, was successful for patients receiving surgery for breast cancer.