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Psycho-Oncology Special Issue: Increasing Access to Psychosocial Oncology Care

A pilot study of mobilized intervention to help caregivers of oncology patients manage distress



Caregivers of patients with advanced cancer experience significant anxiety, depression, and distress. Caregivers have barriers to accessing in‐person treatment to manage stress. Technology allows for the dissemination of evidence‐based interventions in a convenient way. This study examined usage rates of Pep‐Pal (an evidence‐based mobilized intervention to help caregivers of patients with advanced cancer manage distress) and estimates of efficacy on anxiety, depression, stress, and sexual dysfunction.


Fifty‐six primary caregivers of patients with advanced cancer were recruited through oncology clinics and randomized to either Pep‐Pal (a mobilized psychoeducation and skills‐based intervention for caregivers, n = 26) or treatment as usual (TAU; n = 30). All were screened for moderate anxiety on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale–Anxiety screening assessment (A ≥ 8) at baseline.


Participants randomized to Pep‐Pal experienced greater reductions in perceived stress (PSS; F = 3.91, p = .05), greater increases in ability to learn and use stress management skills (F = 6.16, p = 0.01), and greater increases in sexual function (women only; F = 5.07, p = 0.03) compared to participants in TAU. Of Pep‐Pal participants, only 10 (38.5%) watched at least 7/9 full‐length sessions. The a priori hypothesis and criterion that participants would watch at least 75% full‐length sessions were not met.


A brief, easily disseminated mobile intervention showed poor adherence, but had limited estimates of efficacy for secondary outcomes; perceived stress, learning stress management skills, and sexual functioning (women only). Future directions are discussed.

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