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Longitudinal study on quality of life and social support in cancer patients

Courtens, A. M. R.N., Ph.D.; Stevens, F. C. J. Ph.D.; Crebolder, H. F. J. M. M.D., Ph.D.; Philipsen, H. Ph.D.

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The aim of the present study is to acquire insight into the changes of quality of life, social networks, and social support of cancer patients during the first year after diagnosis, as well as into the relation between social support and the changes in quality of life. Newly diagnosed cancer patients (n = 51) were followed for 1 year. Semistructured personal interviews and questionnaires were used to gather data. On the average, patients' functioning improved and the amount of physical complaints decreased over the year. Psychological complaints and the global evaluation of life, however, did not change significantly over time. The patients were supported by small, dense networks, consisting mostly of family members. Size of the networks as well as the amount of emotional support showed some decrease over time. It appeared that emotional support was positively related to quality of life. Moreover, a tendency was found to indicate that patients with a deterioration in quality of life perceived a larger decrease in emotional support than patients with a positive course. The amount of perceived instrumental support did not change significantly. There is a tendency that patients who were functioning worse had a greater need for instrumental support. Although these findings indicate relations between types of support and quality of life, we cannot make statements on the causality of these relations.

A. M. Courtens is Assistant Professor at the Department of Nursing Science, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

F. C. J. Stevens is Assistant Professor at the Department of Medical Sociology, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

H. F. J. M. Crebolder is Professor at the Department of General Practice, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

H. Philipsen is Professor at the Department of Medical Sociology, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. A. M. Courtens, Department of Nursing Science, University of Limburg, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.

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