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29.04.2019 | Original Article

Exploring the role of social support and adjuvant endocrine therapy use among breast cancer survivors

Supportive Care in Cancer
Gabriela Toledo, Carol Y. Ochoa, Albert J. Farias
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Adjuvant endocrine therapy (AET) significantly reduces recurrence and mortality in women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Adherence to AET is about 50–60% for 5 years, and while numerous studies have identified barriers to AET adherence, few have identified the role of social support as a facilitator. Therefore, the objective of this study is to explore the role of social support during the ongoing management of AET.


We conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with breast cancer survivors (n = 22) who filled a prescription for AET in the previous 12 months. Women were recruited from Los Angeles, California, and Houston, Texas, between 2014 and 2015. Interview questions prompted discussion about AET and how social support affects AET adherence. We analyzed interview transcripts with a grounded theory approach and grouped social support into four categories (emotional, informational, instrumental, and appraisal), then used a thematic content analysis to identify the sources and delivery of support.


Women described that informational support was provided by medical providers who explained the purpose, benefits, and management of AET. Emotional support in the form of reassurance, communication, and empathy was provided by family, survivorship groups, medical providers, and spirituality/religiosity. Women identified several organizations and exercises that provided them with instrumental and appraisal support in the form of physical and emotional benefits, which was also provided by family, friends, and medical providers.


We identified that social support delivered to breast cancer survivors provided women with educational, physical, and emotional benefits that may play an important role in their continuation of AET.

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