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The CHESS breast cancer module is an innovative technology that provides information, social support and skills training to women with breast cancer. Further advancing interactive health communication systems will require integrating them with human-based systems that can provide further support to help patients cope with a cancer diagnosis. This project is a national clinical trial that will investigate the benefits of continuing access to an interactive breast cancer support system and a human Cancer Mentor who keeps track of the patient and calls her regularly to offer help. These benefits should be even more effective in the company of an Interactive Cancer Communication System like CHESS, because the Mentor will know what CHESS will know about the patient as well. Conversely, the Cancer Mentor’s knowledge of CHESS and her recommendations for how to use it should lead patients to use it more effectively as well. Additionally, this study will test the benefits of combining these two resources against the benefits of either alone. This research will identify specific CHESS and Mentor effects responsible for improvement on patient quality of lifeas well as the cost of providing the interventions.

The Need

The CHESS system is an ideal platform for investigating which sorts of communication treatments are effective, since there is already substantial evidence that something in CHESS is beneficial. We just do not know what it is, or how it works. Like all interactive breast cancer support systems the sources of its effectiveness are poorly understood. In the proposed study, we intend not only to gauge difference in the efficacies of different types of CHESS interventions, but also to examine potential mediators of treatment effects for different types of patients (e.g. with and without partners/spouses). The research proposed here will provide a rich source of information on processes related to coping with cancer. The study promises to lead what we believe will be the next evolution of interactive cancer communications: enhancing communication among and between the patient, their family and the health care system. Ideally, such connections should strengthen all systems, reinforcing and perhaps multiplying the benefits each provides to patients.


Recruitment for this trial began in April 2005 and will continue through April 2007. Study participants are recruited from Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT., M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, and the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center in Madison, WI. Each subject will be offered a loaned computer and Internet access for 6 months. They will complete 6 surveys at pretest, 2, 6, 12, 24, and 56 weeks. Individual system training and technical support is provided by CHESS staff through the duration of the trial.

Principal Investigators:
Robert Hawkins, Ph.D