Adapting a Couple-Based Intimacy Enhancement Intervention to Breast Cancer: A Developmental Study

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Abstract

Objective: Sexual concerns continue to be poorly addressed for women treated for breast cancer and evidence-based interventions that adequately address these concerns are scarce. The objective of this study was to adapt a telephone-based intimacy enhancement intervention, previously tested in couples facing colorectal cancer, to the needs of women with breast cancer through qualitative focus groups, cognitive interviews, and expert review. Method: Three semistructured qualitative focus groups in partnered posttreatment breast cancer survivors (n = 15) reporting sexual concerns were conducted to investigate experiences of breast cancer-related sexual concerns and intervention preferences. Focus group data were coded using the framework approach to qualitative analysis; 8 key themes were identified and used to develop the content and format of the intervention. Feedback from cognitive interviews with study-naïve breast cancer survivors (n = 4) and expert review of materials were also incorporated in finalizing the intervention materials. Results: Qualitative findings centered on the impact of breast cancer and its treatment on women’s sexuality and on the intimate relationship, experiences of helpful and unhelpful coping methods, and explicit intervention preferences. Focus group data were particularly helpful in identifying the scope of educational topics and in determining how to structure intervention skills practice (e.g., intimacy-related communication) to be optimally relevant and helpful for both women and their partners. Cognitive interview feedback helped refine intervention materials. Conclusion: An intimacy enhancement intervention was adapted for women with breast cancer and their partners. This intervention offers a promising, potentially disseminable approach to addressing breast cancer-related sexual concerns.

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