With the Sisters Peer Counseling in Reproductive Health after Treatment (SPIRIT) program carried out in partnership with Sisters Network® Inc., one of the nation's largest African-American women's breast cancer advocacy organizations M. D. Anderson is among the first to explore ethnic influences on reproductive health after breast cancer and to design an intervention program specifically geared toward this population.
More than nine hundred survivors from Sisters Network® Inc. chapters nationwide will be enrolled to participate in the four-year SPIRIT project, which provides free peer counseling to address concerns many women feel following treatment, including coping with menopausal symptoms, sexuality, infertility, and breast cancer risk among family members. In preparation, 30 peer counselors and seven regional coordinators all breast cancer survivors themselves will be trained in an intense 40-hour workshop.
Early conclusions from a recent pilot study support the belief that peer counseling is an effective way to empower African-American breast cancer survivors, as they are more likely to discuss sexual health issues with trusted family members or friends, one-on-one, rather than in a group or with their physicians.
"Although research shows that minority women may have more problems after cancer treatment with menopausal symptoms, sexuality and infertility, they are less likely to seek medical help," says Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D., principal investigator for the study and associate professor of behavioral science at M. D. Anderson. "This pattern of behavior is largely caused by cultural and socio-economic factors in the African-American community, which contribute to more conservative a
Contact: Stephanie Hughes Koenig
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center