Development of an intervention to restore attention in cancer patients

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Abstract

Developing interventions to maintain or restore attentional capacity during demanding phases of illness will help promote effective functioning in people with cancer. This study tested the effects of an experimental intervention aimed at maintaining or restoring attentional capacity in 32 women during the 3 months after surgery for localized (Stage I or II) breast cancer. The intervention was designed to minimize or prevent attentional fatigue through regular participation in activities that engage fascination and have other restorative properties. Attentional capacity was assessed using objective and subjective measures at four time points, ∼3, 18, 60, and 90 days after breast cancer surgery. After the first observation, subjects were randomly assigned to receive the intervention (n = 16) or not to receive intervention (n = 16). Repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant interaction of experimental intervention and time on attentional capacity. Specifically, subjects in the intervention group showed significant improvement in attentional capacity over the four time points, while the nonintervention group showed a pattern of inconsistent performance over time. Findings suggest that nurses can intervene to maintain or restore attentional capacity in women after surgery for localized breast cancer. The theoretical basis for further development of attention-restoring interventions in patients with cancer is discussed.

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