People living with cancer face numerous psychosocial challenges, including cancer-related fatigue, fear of recurrence, and depression. There is a lack of digital interventions tailored to the needs of people living with all types of cancer. We developed a 6-week, digital, peer-delivered, self-management program: iHOPE (Help to Overcome Problems Effectively; where ‘i’ indicates the digital version of the program). The program is underpinned by positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy to meet these psychosocial challenges.
This study aimed to assess the feasibility of the iHOPE program among people living with cancer. Program adherence and satisfaction along with changes in psychological distress and positive well-being were measured.
A pre-post, acceptability, and feasibility design was used. People living with cancer (N=114) were recruited via a national cancer charity in the United Kingdom and were given access to the iHOPE program. Demographic and other participant characteristics were recorded. Participants completed digital measures at baseline and the end of the 6-week program for depression, anxiety, cancer-related fatigue, cancer worry or fear of cancer recurrence, positive mental well-being, hope, gratitude, and health status. The website’s system recorded data on the usage of the program. Satisfaction with the program was also measured.
A total of 114 participants completed the baseline questionnaires. Of these, 70 people (61.4%) participated in all 6 sessions. The mean number of sessions undertaken was 5.0 (SD 1.5). Moreover, 44.7% (51/114) of participants completed at least three sessions and end-of-program outcome measures. A total of 59 participants completed the satisfaction questionnaire, where ≥90% (54/58) of participants reported that the program was easy to navigate and was well managed by the peer facilitators, and that they found the social networking tools useful. Preliminary efficacy testing among the 51 participants who completed baseline and postprogram outcome measures showed that postprogram scores decreased for depression, anxiety, cancer-related fatigue, and fear of recurrence (all P<.001) and increased for positive mental well-being (P<.001), hope (both P<.001), and gratitude (P=.02).
The feasibility evidence is promising, showing that the peer-delivered digital iHOPE program is acceptable and practical. Implementation of the iHOPE program on a wider scale will incorporate further research and development to maximize the completion rates of the measures. Initial effectiveness data suggest positive impacts on important cancer-related quality of life and mental well-being outcomes. A randomized controlled trial design with a longer follow-up is needed to confirm the potential of the iHOPE program for improving mental and physical health outcomes for cancer survivors.