Determinants of participation in cancer support groups: The role of health beliefs

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Abstract

Background:

Although considerable attention has been directed toward cancer support groups, little is known about how often these services are actually used in clinical practice or the factors that influence participation.

Purpose:

Drawing in part on the Health Belief Model, this study examined group participation and its correlates among 425 patients with diverse malignancies treated at a large academic oncology center. Method: Patients were surveyed regarding utilization rates, health beliefs, and medical and demographic characteristics.

Results:

Only a small number of patients reported having participated in groups (8.0%). Consistent with the model, in univariate analyses, participation was significantly related to greater perceptions of illness severity (p < .0001), greater perceived benefits (p < .01), fewer perceived barriers (all p < .01), and greater cues for action (i.e., recommendation by family/friends, p < .000001). In multivariate analyses controlling for disease site and other covariates, the strongest predictors included recommendation by family/friends (OR = 5.04; CI = 1.98-12.81), perceived seriousness of the illness (OR = 4.07; CI = 1.42-11.60), and geographical residence (OR = 2.74; CI = 1.09-6.93).

Conclusion:

Results suggest that participation might be increased by involving the patient's support network, improving access in underserved rural communities, addressing illness appraisals, and increasing outreach to certain diagnostic groups.

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