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Benefits of Social Support



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Research shows social support has real benefits for breast cancer survivors. Whether it's informal support from family and friends, or more formal support from group or individual therapy, social support can improve your quality of life [2-3].

Social support may reduce [4-8]:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Emotional distress and depression
  • Fatigue
  • The experience of pain

Social support may improve [4-8]:

  • Mood
  • Self-image
  • Ability to cope with stress
  • Sexual function and enjoyment
  • Feelings of control

Benefits of social support after treatment

Having social networks can help survivors with recovery and adjusting to life after treatment.

One study found that compared to women who were socially isolated, women with social connections (for example, through marriage, close friendships or membership in a religious organization) had [9]:

  • Fewer physical limitations
  • Less of a decline in their ability to perform daily activities

Social support, survival and recurrence

Although social support can enhance quality of life for breast cancer survivors, it remains unclear whether social support can improve survival or reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence [2,10-14].

Randomized controlled trials do not show a survival benefit from support groups among breast cancer survivors (although other quality of life benefits have been shown) [2,15-16]. However, prospective cohort studies suggest that survivors with more social support have better survival [10-11,13-14].

The differences in results may be due to the types of social support studied. Cohort studies have mostly studied the social support people get from existing social networks, such as friends and family. In contrast, randomized trials have mostly studied social support from strangers, such as cancer survivor support groups. Further studies are needed to determine whether there is a difference between these two kinds of social support and breast cancer survival.


For a summary of research studies on social support and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research section. 


For a summary of research studies on support groups and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research section. 



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Updated 11/01/13

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