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Online Support Groups for Breast Cancer Patients

Alternative Support Groups

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Updated May 29, 2012

Breast Cancer Support Group

Breast Cancer Support Group

Photo © Pam Stephan

I mentioned earlier that you might be more of a thinker than an emotionally expressive person, and prefer to process your experience privately, or perhaps through writing. If you are not comfortable sharing your feelings, or you live in a rural area that has no support group that you can easily attend, are there other ways you can find support that will give you the same kind of benefits that were experienced by the women whose support groups helped them get through treatment?

About a year ago, the Pew Charitable Trust did a survey of online computer use. They found that a little more than half of adults in the U. S. found information about health online, and used this information when they had a doctor's appointment, to help make treatment and care decisions. Around five million of the adults also participated in online emotional support groups. Such groups may be a listserv, newsgroup, chat room, or email digest. Over 60% of breast cancer patients who used online support groups said that they benefited from the online community, had less depression, felt less pain, and felt more spiritual.

One such group that has benefited me is the Breast Cancer Mailing List. There is no charge to join, and they observe rules of etiquette and confidentiality. Many professionals check into this community, such as Musa Mayer, an eleven-year survivor, patient advocate, and author of "AFTER BREAST CANCER: Answers to the Questions You're Afraid to Ask." Here's what one member had to say:

"I have only been connected to this group for a month and it seems like a lifetime...I honestly feel like I already know many of you personally. I also feel like I have been accepted with open arms, hearts and minds. It has done me a world of good and my family can attest to that." - a Breast Cancer listserv user

There are also online support groups for a patient's family members or caregivers. Swapping stories and information, or tips on care techniques can enhance the effectiveness of the support that they are giving. Family and friends are part of the fight, and need to recharge, ventilate, and learn new things while standing by you. Having others to talk to about this experience can be very helpful, and relieve feelings of isolation and sadness. Cancer Support Community has online support groups in English and Spanish. These groups are small, have regular meetings, and are run by professionals. Register with the Wellness Community to join their online support groups.

You may have a very supportive family, some of whom may have already experienced and survived cancer. In this case, you may not feel the need of a support group that is hospital-based or associated with a clinic. In your case, a support group would serve as an educational experience, or, you may find that you are there to give support to someone who is not close to their family, and who can benefit from your presence. However you decide to act, build a network of support during your treatment, and stick with it during your survivorship. Relationships that endure great difficulties can prove to be wonderfully strong and powerfully blessing, to you and to others.

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