With the proper nursing care, do women recovering from breast cancer surgery do better at home than in the hospital?
To answer this question, researchers at Michigan State University's colleges of Nursing and Human Medicine are undertaking a project that will determine how much and what kind of care these women need. The study also will provide excellent postsurgical at-home nursing care for hundreds of women.
"Women who have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy face many physical and emotional adjustments," said Gwen Wyatt, associate professor of nursing and project director. "We may find that these issues can be addressed more effectively in the home, if nurses and other health care professionals can find creative ways to provide the support women need at a reasonable cost."
The study, called Nursing Care for Breast Cancer, will offer women the same kind of follow-up attention they would traditionally receive in the hospital. Participants will receive at least two home visits and two telephone contacts by a registered nurse during the first 2 weeks after surgery.
"Many women want to go home as soon as possible after surgery," Wyatt said. "But breast surgeries done on an outpatient basis--the so-called 'drive-through mastectomies'--give nursing staff very little time to teach women what they need to know in order to avoid post-surgical complications."
"Traditionally, women were hospitalized five to 10 days after a mastectomy," she said. "Drains that prevent fluid retention at the surgical site were removed before discharge. Now, women often go home within hours after surgery and the drain is taken out by a doctor during a later office visit."
To participate in this study, a woman must be at least 21 years of age, have a confirmed diagnosis of breast cancer, be mentally competent, be scheduled for surgery, and, ultimately, be discharged from the hospital within 48 hours.
Funding for the project is provided by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Department of Defense. Project co-directors are Charles Given, professor of family practice, College of Human Medicine, and Barbara Given, professor of nursing. For more information, call (517) 432-5511.