Many women discontinue adjuvant endocrine therapy (AET) because of adverse events (AEs), and only half remain adherent at five years. Researchers from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, found that continued social support for those women may improve AET adherence. They presented the findings at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on December 7, 2018.

Researchers conducted semistructured, in-depth interviews with 19 patients with breast cancer who filled an AET prescription in the previous 12 months. Women were recruited from Los Angeles, CA, and Houston, TX, between 2014 and 2015. The interviews were audio recorded and professionally transcribed. Interviewers asked about experiences with AET and how social support affected patients’ management of these agents. The investigators categorized social support into four major categories: emotional, informational, instrumental, and appraisal.

Patients most commonly received informational support from their medical providers via consultations or phone calls, during which they described receiving digestible information about AET’s purpose, benefits, and AEs. Many patients confided in healthcare providers about AEs and said they trusted and had confidence in their recommendations. Women also received informational support from technology, survivorship groups, family and friends, and religious groups.

Patients described emotional support as equally important, noting the need for ongoing reassurance, communication, and empathy to help deal with the stressors of managing their AEs. Patients reported receiving emotional support from family, survivorship groups, religion and spirituality, and, in some cases, healthcare teams.

Instrumental and appraisal support appeared to play a more peripheral role, according to the researchers.