Support groups are an important resource for breast cancer survivors. They are designed to increase the support network of the people in the group.
Types of support groups
Support groups vary in their focus. Some groups mainly provide information and education (for example, what to expect with chemotherapy and tips on how to cope with treatment). Other groups focus on providing emotional support. These groups encourage people to share their feelings. Both types of support groups play a role in the recovery process following diagnosis and treatment.
Some groups are led by professionals, while others are more informal and take place in churches or homes. Some support groups may also include complementary therapies (such as meditation) in their sessions. Most support groups require a time commitment, usually meeting monthly or weekly.
Is a support group right for me?
Although support groups can be a powerful force for healing, they aren’t for everyone. Those focused on emotional support are useful for people who are comfortable expressing their feelings and fears about breast cancer in a group setting. People reach this stage at different times in their recovery, or not at all.
Some people prefer to keep their feelings to themselves or to share them only with close family and friends. Everyone has different needs. It is most important to find a healthy support system that works for you.
Finding a support group
There is no one successful support group model. Find one that best meets your needs. There are also support groups for family and loved ones.
Most support groups, either by design or convenience, are tailored to meet the needs of people of a certain age or at a certain stage of dealing with their breast cancer. Many hospitals and local health organizations offer support groups for people who have been recently diagnosed. Other groups are designed for those undergoing chemotherapy or those dealing with fear of breast cancer recurrence.
Talking to a patient navigator is a good first step in finding a support group that fits your needs. You can also call our breast care helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) for more information on how to find local support groups.
Learn more about finding local sources of support.
Online support groups
Online support groups are available through many organizations, such as The Cancer Support Community. Similar to in-person groups, online support groups provide a chance to share information, give and receive social support and gain a sense of empowerment.
Finding an online support group
The Association of Cancer Online Resources and CancerCare are good resources for finding an online support group.
Support groups for men with breast cancer
In-person support groups for men with breast cancer can be hard to find. However, there are support groups for men with any cancer diagnosis. And, there may be online support groups where men with breast cancer can share common experiences. Some organizations may even be able to help connect men with another male breast cancer survivor for one-on-one telephone or online support. See resources below.
After Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Cancer Support Community
Komen Support Resources
- Our breast care helpline 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) provides free, professional support services and help finding local support groups. Our trained and caring staff are available to you and your family Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST.
- Our Message Boards offer online forums for breast cancer survivors to share their experiences and advice with other breast cancer survivors.
- Our Co-Survivor section has detailed information and resources for family and friends.
- Our Family, Friends and Caregivers forum within the Message Boards offers co-survivors a place to share their own unique experiences and challenges of being a co-survivor for those living with breast cancer.
- Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information for survivors and co-survivors.
Support groups and breast cancer survival
At this time, it is 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. More studies are needed to determine whether there is a difference between these two kinds of social support and breast cancer survival.