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Specialist breast care nurses for supportive care of women with breast cancer

Cruickshank S, Kennedy C, Lockhart K, Dosser I, Dallas L
Published Online: 
8 October 2008

Breast cancer is a complex disease which has seen survival for women improve over the last 20 years. Many of these improvements are linked to treatment advances, improved screening and a multiprofessional approach to its management. Breast Care Nurses (BCNs) work within this multiprofessional environment providing a range of interventions including support, information, patient advocacy and general liaison among the various members of the healthcare team. The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness of individual interventions carried out by BCNs on quality of life outcomes for women with a diagnosis of breast cancer. We reviewed five studies which met the criteria for this systematic review. These involved a range of interventions and outcome measurements, and included women of various ages and in various stages of breast cancer assessment and treatment. These studies also used many different methods of reporting statistical findings and for this reason, the results of the studies could not be combined. Despite limited evidence to support their BCN role, one study which looked at follow up by the BCN compared to a doctor concluded that there were no differences for either group in terms of satisfaction with care or the ability of the healthcare provider to identify anxiety and depression. Another study showed that specific BCN interventions can alleviate perceived distress for women undergoing radiotherapy treatment however this did not have any impact on coping skills, mood or overall quality of life.

Generally speaking, this review found limited evidence to identify the components of the BCNs role which impact on a woman's quality of life but acknowledge that the nature of their work, provided within a multiprofessional team, serves to complement the team as a whole rather than highlighting the impact of the BCN alone. Further research is, however, needed which addresses the impact that BCNs may have on aspects of quality of life for women with breast cancer.

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