Social support is the emotional support, practical help, advice and other benefits you get from interactions with your co-survivors. Co-survivors may include:
Co-survivors give support in many different ways. For example, an oncologist provides information, hope and advice about treatment options. Friends and family may give practical help, like offering rides to and from treatments or helping with cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, child care and looking up information on the Internet. Your boss may even help you find ways to balance your job and treatment schedule.
Your co-survivors may also give emotional support that can help boost your sense of self-worth and help you feel loved, cared for and understood. Social support may be as informal as a sympathetic ear of a close friend, or as formal as a survivors' support group or going to see a therapist.
Learn more about being a co-survivor.
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]:
Social support may improve [4-8]:
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 :
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.
You may already have support from your circle of family and friends. Spouses and partners, as well as children, often play key roles in supporting those they love through the tough times of diagnosis and treatment [3,17].
You may find you also need support from people outside of your existing network. This can be a difficult step, but it is an important one.
Breast cancer can cause strain within relationships and some people notice a withdrawal of emotional support from close friends and family members . This means that, at the time when they are needed most, the people close to you may be less supportive than usual. This can happen to anyone, so it is important to be prepared and to seek other sources of support if you need them.
Even when relationships with family and friends are not strained, other sources of support can be helpful. Fortunately, there are many social support resources including support groups, religious organizations and health care providers.
If you are facing end-of-life decisions, hospice is a good source of support for you and your family.
Komen Support Resources
Facts for Life: Getting the Support You Need
Facts for Life: Coping With a Cancer Diagnosis
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)