I have spent my career as a psychologist not only helping people with problems, but also creating new programs that can be effective. I have focused on preventing and overcoming cancer-related problems with sexuality, and also helping cancer patients, survivors, and partners cope with cancer-related infertility and make decisions about parenthood. Will2Love's self-help programs for men and women have already been tested, and three studies published in scientific journals have shown that users report improved sexual function and satisfaction, as well as less conflict in making decisions about sperm banking. However, these studies were relatively small, and took place at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center with earlier versions of our current online self-help programs for men and women. We have joined with the American Cancer Society to do a larger, real-world study of how these programs work. For the next several months, Will2Love will be recruiting cancer patients, survivors, and their intimate partners for the Find Your PATHS study. You can read the study information page here.
Why Do Another Study?
Will2Love's self-help programs already have more of a track record of scientific evidence than the vast majority of online programs trying to help with specific health problems. As a researcher, however, I am not satisfied with relying on data from earlier versions and patients mainly from one large, cancer center. I want to show that our programs can help most of the 60% of cancer survivors who end up with sexual or fertility problems. If the study is not promising, I also want to fix issues that may be limiting the effectiveness of our programs. We would like to have as many as 1,100 men and women participate in the study, so we can see if factors like gender, age, relationship status, and patterns of usage of our websites affect the success of the program.
What Does It Take to Participate?
Men or women who have had a cancer diagnosis, or who are the intimate partner of a cancer patient/survivor can participate. You just need to live in the United States, be age 18 or older, and have a sexual or fertility problem or concern. The entire study is online, hosted on our Will2Love website, which meets the strict HIPAA standards for security and privacy. We are not collecting information that hackers would want, such as social security numbers or insurance information. We do ask for your name and email, but we assign each participant a special study number. During the study, the small group of researchers can look up someone's identity and study number. Once the study is over and data have been analyzed, the list linking identities and study numbers will be destroyed.
To participate, you read the information page and go to the Informed Consent to see a full explanation of the study. If you agree to participate you sign up online and then fill out a set of brief questionnaires that should take 15 minutes at the most. Once the questionnaires are complete, we send you a password to either the men's or women's self-help program. If you are part of a couple, either the cancer survivor or partner can be the first to consent. Then if desired, that participant can invite the other partner to also be in the study. Either one or both partners in a couple can take part in the study. After filling out the initial questionnaires, the participant can use the self-help program for 3 months.
Will2Love's self-help programs are very comprehensive, including information about the sexual and fertility side effects of a full range of cancer types and specific treatments. Education is included on how cancer treatments damage sexual function or fertility. Education includes how the sexual and fertility systems work, avoiding unintended pregnancies or sexually-transmitted infections during and after cancer, and special sections on sexual orientation and sexual attitudes. Step-by-step self-help strategies are provided, with exercises to try alone or with a partner to prevent or overcome common sexual problems. Medical treatments for sexual problems are also described, with advice on finding expert help. Sections on fertility include information on preserving fertility before cancer treatment, finding financial help, and safety of pregnancy post-cancer, as well as a lot of attention to decisions about ways to become a parent after cancer. The programs discuss how to maintain intimacy in relationships, improve sexual communication, and date again after cancer. Partners are given guidance on how to work with a cancer survivor throughout. Because so much information is included, each program includes a goal-setting section to help the user identify her or his highest priorities. Once these are chosen, a special table guides the user to find the information that is most important.
After 3 months, a second, similar set of questionnaires is sent to the participant. Once those are finished, he or she gets another 3 months to use the self-help program. At 6 months, the study is over, but we do ask each participant to take a very few minutes to rate the program and give us any feedback or comments. We do record each participant's time spent on the website, including which pages are visited, but this is not to "snoop" on any one participant. Rather, we want to know if people who spend more time on the program also report more improvements in their sex lives or distress about fertility, and if there are parts of the program that are especially helpful for the group of participants as a whole.
A Comment from the American Cancer Society (ACS)
Will2Love is honored to be partnering with the American Cancer Society in this important study.
Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society commented: “Sexuality and fertility are crucial aspects of quality of life for cancer survivors and their loved ones. This study tests an online program that already has been shown in earlier versions to improve sexual function and satisfaction in men and women treated for cancer. If the trial is successful, it could improve care for the many people with unmet needs to prevent or resolve sexual dysfunction or infertility related to their cancer treatment.”
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 2 million volunteers saving lives in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society's efforts have contributed to a 25 percent decline in the cancer death rate in the U.S. since 1991, driven by less smoking, better treatments, and earlier detection. ACS is finding cures as the nation's largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org
If you have questions about the Find Your PATHS Study, please contact Dr. Leslie Schover at study@Will2Love.com or call 832-644-0406.
This educational material is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace, or substitute for, professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read in this educational material.
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