Social work with adult cancer patients: A vote-count review of intervention research

Julie G. Cwikel, Lynn C. Behar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The meaning of a cancer diagnosis has changed in the past decades, bringing with it a myriad of psychosocial interventions to improve the psychological or functional status of those coping with the disease. Today, social workers in oncology need to be current with research in order to integrate empirical and practical knowledge. In an effort to assist in this process, we reviewed empirical studies to address the following questions: (1) When are patients likely to be willing to accept help? (2) Is there sufficient evidence to show that some types of psychosocial treatment are effective in improving psychological or physical functioning? (3) Are certain treatments preferable for some cancer patients depending on the type of cancer and stage of disease? Using a vote-count review of 40 intervention studies in psychosocial oncology, 36 documented some positive outcomes from treatments, 4 studies exhibited null findings, and no studies were found to have clearly negative results. Studies revealed the most positive results from interventions during the treatment phase, next from interventions at diagnosis, and lastly from interventions during the terminal stage. Individual and group formats showed a comparable level of efficacy. Interventions that included cognitive behavioral methods had the most consistently positive results. Those intervention studies where social workers were involved in the research were less successful at demonstrating efficacy. This difference was due primarily to the fact that social workers often did not include cognitive behavioral interventions in their research. Based on the results of this study, social workers might want to reevaluate their intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-67
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Work in Health Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Nov 1999


  • Breast cancer
  • Cognitive-behavioral methods
  • Coping with chronic illness
  • Oncology
  • Psychological treatment efficacy
  • Social work intervention research
  • Vote-count review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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