Trauma-Informed Radiation Therapy: Implementation and Evaluation of a Sensitive Practice Tool for Female Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer

Deborah Marshall, Sheryl Green, Brianna M. Jones, Clodagh Starrs, Guy H. Montgomery, Kevin Minassian, Bruce Wunder, James Force, Julie B. Schnur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: For childhood sexual abuse survivors, cancer care can be retraumatizing because of perceived similarities to the original sexual violence. The authors’ group designed and implemented a sensitive practice tool (SPT) and evaluated the feasibility of the tool in female patients receiving breast radiation. Methods: The SPT was offered as a “universal precaution” to patients with breast cancer as part of standard clinical care. Patients were given the SPT, which included an instructional video about radiotherapy and a survey about triggers and preferences. The survey results were provided to radiation therapists and used to personalize patients’ care. A retrospective chart review and quality improvement survey of therapists were performed. Results: Of 739 eligible patients, 493 (66.7%) completed the SPT from November 2013 to June 2019. Among respondents, 281 (57.0%) reported potential triggers, 395 (80.1%) reported distress management preferences, and 59 (12.0%) requested psychosocial referrals. Mean patient satisfaction was high, and a majority of patients were likely to recommend the SPT to other patients (85.3%). Among radiation therapists (n = 13), 100% reported that the SPT made it easier to customize or individualize patient care. Trauma disclosure was not significantly associated with increased frequency of trigger endorsement (P = .07) but was associated with increased endorsement of distress management preferences (P = .02) and psychosocial referral requests (P < .001). Conclusions: The reported experience with the SPT in the breast radiotherapy setting demonstrated that potential triggers and distress management preferences among patients are common and that patient satisfaction with the SPT is high, yielding clinically meaningful and actionable sensitive practice information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1243
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Volume19
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Keywords

  • Trauma
  • breast cancer
  • radiotherapy
  • sensitive practice
  • sexual violence

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