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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 52: Support groups and breast cancer survival


Table 52: Support groups and breast cancer survival

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table

Introduction: A number of randomized clinical trials have studied whether support groups improve long-term survival for women with breast cancer.

A 1989 study showed that women with metastatic breast cancer lived an average of 18 months longer if they joined a support group [1]. However, more recent, larger studies have found no benefit from support groups on breast cancer survival [2-7].

Support may still be important to survival. Some data suggest breast cancer survivors with more social support have better survival (see Table 53). 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 know whether there is a difference between these two kinds of social support and breast cancer survival.

Study selection criteria: Randomized clinical trials with at least 50 participants and meta-analyses


Study Population
(number of participants)


Better Survival in Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer who Attended Support Groups Compared to Those who Did Not?

Yes / No 

Randomized clinical trials 

Kissane et al. [2]




Goodwin et al. [3]    




Edelman et al. [4]




Spiegel et al. [5]    




Spiegel et al. [1]




Cunningham et al. [6]





Edwards et al. [1,3,7]   



* Estimated from data in study.
† Participants were women with early stage breast cancer.


1. Spiegel D, Bloom JR, Kraemer HC, et al. Effect of psychosocial treatment on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Lancet. 2:888-891, 1989.

2. Kissane DW, Love A, Hatton A, et al. Effect of cognitive-existential group therapy on survival in early-stage breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 22(21):4255-60, 2004.

3. Goodwin PJ, Leszcz M, Ennis M, et al. The effect of group psychosocial support on survival in metastatic breast cancer. New Engl J Med. 345(24):1719-1726, 2001.

4. Edelman S, Lemon J, Bell DR, et al. Effects of group CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) on the survival time of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology. 8:474-481, 1999.

5. Spiegel D, Butler LD, Giese-Davis J, et al. Effects of supportive-expressive group therapy on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer: a randomized prospective trial. Cancer. 110(5):1130-8, 2007.

6. Cunningham AJ, Edmonds CVI, Jenkins GP, et al. A randomized controlled trial of the effects of group psychological therapy on survival in women with metastatic breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology. 7:508-517, 1998.

7. Edwards AGK, Hulbert-Williams N, Neal RD. Psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (3):CD004253, 2008.

Updated 03/12/13