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Isolation experienced by women with gestational cancer: could peer support and tailored information be the answer?

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Women diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy (gestational cancer) are a small but vulnerable population, with experts suggesting they require greater psycho-social support than either other women with cancer or other pregnant women. However, information on their psychological needs remains sparse. This commentary describes our work exploring the psychological needs of women diagnosed with gestational cancer, areas of unmet need we identified, and our recommendations for future programs and research. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 23 Australian women diagnosed with gestational cancer in the preceding 5 years. Our findings depicted a group of women for whom cancer diagnosis and treatment had resulted in a sense of isolation and loneliness. Women reported seeking tailored information about their condition and treatments as well as one-on-one peer support with other gestational cancer survivors, which was challenging for them to access and which existing services struggled to provide. To address these unmet needs, innovative solutions may be necessary. Technology has the potential to connect and match women with one-to-one peer support, and research exploring the efficacy and acceptability of such interventions is required. Creative solutions, such as virtual resource hubs monitored or moderated by experts, would potentially meet the information needs of this group. However, as gestational cancer is relatively rare, the development and evaluation of such interventions would require a collaborative effort across multiple sites, as well as international collaboration and data pooling.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request, and subject to approval from the hospital’s research ethics committee.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the role of Western and Central Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service (WCMICS) and The Royal Women’s Hospital Foundation, which provided the funding for this research.


This study was funded by the Western and Central Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service (WCMICS) and The Royal Women’s Hospital Foundation. Michelle Peate is supported by a University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fellowship. These funding bodies had no role in the study design, execution, analysis, interpretation of the data, or the decision to submit results. The funding bodies have had no role in the writing of this manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



LS conceived and designed the original study on which this manuscript is based, secured funding for the project, and supervised the study. LS, KG, and MS completed the data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation. RL, LS, and MS were involved in drafting and critically revising this manuscript. All other authors contributed to the refinement of the study protocol of the original study and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lesley Stafford.

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Ethics approval was received from The Royal Women’s Human Research Ethics Committee: ID#18/25.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Patients signed informed consent regarding the publication of their data.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Stafford, L., Sinclair, M., Gerber, K. et al. Isolation experienced by women with gestational cancer: could peer support and tailored information be the answer?. Support Care Cancer 29, 7135–7138 (2021).

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