Background: Minority patients with breast cancer are at risk for undertreatment of cancer-related pain. The authors evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of an automated pain intervention for improving pain and symptom management of underserved African American and Latina women with breast cancer.
Methods: Sixty low-income African American and Latina women with breast cancer and cancer-related pain were enrolled in a pilot study of an automated, telephone-based, interactive voice response (IVR) intervention. Women in the intervention group were called twice weekly by the IVR system and asked to rate the intensity of their pain and other symptoms. The patients’ oncologists received e-mail alerts if the reported symptoms were moderate to severe. The patients also reported barriers to pain management and received education regarding any reported obstacles.
Results: The proportion of women in both groups reporting moderate to severe pain decreased during the study, but the decrease was significantly greater for the intervention group. The IVR intervention also was associated with improvements in other cancer-related symptoms, including sleep disturbance and drowsiness. Although patient adherence to the IVR call schedule was good, the oncologists who were treating the patients rated the intervention as only somewhat useful for improving symptom management.
Conclusions: The IVR intervention reduced pain and symptom severity for underserved minority women with breast cancer. Additional research on technological approaches to symptom management is needed.