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Half of the women in the study participated in the intervention program, the other half received "usual care" -- which means that, after the initial medical exam, they were not provided with information or advice on how to control their symptoms.

Zibecchi, a clinical research nurse practitioner in the division of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA, was the nurse practitioner who advised and cared for the patients assigned to participate in the intervention program.

"Everything was individualized to the individual patient -- so we didn't really offer a one-size fits all [approach]," Zibecchi explains. "We went into a very detailed assessment of their particular symptoms and the factors that affect [them]."

The study results show that after four months, the women who entered the intervention program reported more improvements in their symptoms and in sexual function than the women who received "usual care," although general quality-of-life scores were about the same in the two groups.

"There are many women who don't want to discuss these symptoms with health care providers because they are so private and personal. I think that if health care providers don't have a systematic, comprehensive approach, they may miss women who have these symptoms, and the women will go on and suffer needlessly," says Zibecchi.

Zibecchi adds that some women want information, but there is nobody there to give it to them. "They are searching the Internet, and they are going to the lay literature, and they are trying things that are not safe or effective for their symptoms."

"It is important women be asked about these symptoms and also to be fully informed about their options and be encouraged to participate in the decisions surrounding what they want to do about their symptoms," says Zibecchi.

"I didn't want [breast cancer] to conquer me, but the quality of life wasn't there," says Moore. "I enjoy life now; I don't think I would, had it not been for UCLA."

 

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