Social relationships and their associations with affective symptoms of women with breast cancer: A scoping review

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Background Problems in affective and cognitive functioning are among the most common concurrent symptoms that breast cancer patients report. Social relationships may provide some explanations of the clinical variability in affective-cognitive symptoms. Evidence suggests that social relationships (functional and structural aspects) can be associated with patients’ affective-cognitive symptoms; however, such an association has not been well studied in the context of breast cancer. Purpose The purpose of this scoping review was to address the following question: What social relationships are associated with affective-cognitive symptoms of women with breast cancer? Methods This scoping review used the framework proposed by Arksey and O’Malley and PRISMA-Sc. Studies published by February 2022 were searched using four databases: MEDLINE (PubMed), Embase (Elsevier), PsycINFO (EBSCOhost), and Web of Science (Clarivate). All retrieved citations were independently screened and eligibility for inclusion was determined by study team members. Extracted data included research aims, design, sample, type and measures of social relationships (functional and structural), and the association between social relationships and affective-cognitive symptoms Results A total of 70 studies were included. Affective symptoms were positively associated with social support, family functioning, quality of relationships, social networks, and social integration, whereas the negative association was found with social constraints. Conclusion Our findings suggest positive social relationships may mitigate affective symptoms of women with breast cancer. Thus, health care providers need to educate patients about the importance of building solid social relationships and encourage them to participate in a supportive network of friends and family members.