Cancer Support Groups: Why and How They Help
Having cancer is scary, overwhelming, and can leave you feeling isolated, despite the dedicated attention of your cancer care team and the love of your family and friends. That's why many patients turn to support groups.
In a support group, patients can share their cancer experiences and frustrations. Only other cancer patients can truly appreciate and understand what it's like to live with cancer and cope with cancer treatment.
Support groups are an opportunity to learn more about treatment options for your type of cancer, and other patients can be a wealth of ideas for coping with treatment side effects and cancer-related psychological and emotional struggles.
Patients say they feel a sense of belonging in support groups and can be themselves in a safe, encouraging environment. They appreciate receiving-and giving-support to others. Participating in a support group improves quality of life for some people.
A study of breast cancer survivors, for example, found that support groups improved women's mood, pain, symptom control, and social functioning.
There are many types of support groups, so you're likely to find one that works for you. You can join a general cancer support group or find one whose members have the same type of cancer as you do.
Parents, caretakers, and siblings of children with cancer need support as well. Sibling support is particularly important when it comes to kids with cancer. When a child has a serious illness, the family understandably focuses its attention on that child, leaving brothers and sisters feeling anxious, alone, and fearful. Sibling support groups provide an outlet for them to release their distress, find reassurance, lessen anxiety and depression, and help them deal with grief and fear.
Your cancer center probably offers local support groups or can direct you to local organizations that do. Patients who live in rural area, or have transportation or mobility issues, often find online support groups are an ideal solution. Internet support groups usually offer online forums or chats, and, like in-person groups, may hold virtual meetings at regularly scheduled times
Support groups vary in duration and membership. Some last just a few weeks or months, while others are ongoing. Likewise, some limit membership and others are welcome anyone to drop in.
This type of support is not always a one-size-fits-all situation. If you visit a group and it doesn't feel right, try another group. It could also be that you're not ready; you may feel more comfortable participating at another time.
Medscape Medical News. "Support Groups More Popular Than Ever - Embarrassment Not a Deterrent." Web.
Ovarian Cancer Facts. "Support Groups For Cancer - Why Are They So Valuable?" Web.
Nolbris, Margaretha, PhDc, MSc, RN, Abrahamsson, Jonas, MD, PhD, Hellström, Anna-Lena, PhD, RN, Olofsson, Lisa, MSc, RN, and Karin Enskär, Karin PhD, RN. "The Experience of Therapeutic Support Groups by Siblings of Children with Cancer." Pediatric Nursing 36(6) (2010): 298-304. Medscape Medical News. Web. 3 January 2011.
National Cancer Institute. "Support Groups May Boost Quality of Life, Not Survival." Web. 23 March 2005.
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The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.