American Association for Cancer Research

How to Find a Support Group

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Many women and men who have been diagnosed with cancer have found that joining a support group helps them manage the wide range of feelings and fears they experience during and after their cancer treatment. Support groups also help family members and friends handle the countless emotions a loved one's cancer diagnosis can evoke.

Studies have found that cancer support groups can enhance self-esteem, reduce depression, decrease anxiety and improve relationships with family members and friends. Support groups also can help you cope better with your diagnosis and increase your knowledge of cancer and its treatment.

Early research suggested support groups could help people with cancer live longer. More recent studies have not supported this finding. Even so, the emotional benefits these groups can provide are significant. Support groups have greatly improved the quality of life of many people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Some people prefer support groups that meet in person. Others feel more comfortable communicating their feelings in support groups that meet online or on the telephone. (Online and telephone groups also work well for those who live in rural areas or can’t easily leave home.) Whichever you prefer, there is most likely a group or setting that can meet your needs.

You may want to begin by asking your doctor, nurse or hospital social worker about support groups that are offered by your hospital or other organizations in your community.

The internet can be helpful as well. Below are websites that have search engines that can help you locate a support group in your area or that offer online or telephone support groups.

  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) runs thousands of cancer support groups nationwide. It also maintains a list of organizations that offer support groups. If you don't want to search online, you can contact the ACS toll free at 1-800-ACS-2345. Cancer information specialists are available 24 hours a day.
  • Another option is the ACS's Cancer Survivors Network, an online community created by and for cancer survivors and their loved ones. There you can find discussion boards and live chats. For individuals without internet access, a phone network is available through the toll-free number 1-877-333-HOPE.
  • CancerCare offers professionally facilitated support groups online, over the telephone, and at CancerCare locations in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • Cancer News has links to sites with lists of support groups for women with breast or gynecologic cancer, men with prostate cancer, and individuals with lymphoma, multiple myeloma or leukemia.
  • The National Cancer Institute has a database "National Organizations That Offer Cancer-Related Services." These organizations either run support groups or can provide referrals to others that do.
  • OncoChat provides online peer support for cancer survivors, family members and friends.
  • The Cancer Support Community offers online support groups for patients, caregivers and those who have completed their cancer treatment. It also has more than two dozen facilities throughout the United States that offer a wide range of support services.

Before you attend your first support group meeting, you may want to contact the support group coordinator. This will allow you to become more familiar with the group and how it functions. You may want to find out, for example, how many people are in the group, how long it has been running, and if the group has a professional facilitator, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker (if that is important to you). You will also want to find out if the group is free (most are). If there is a fee, you should contact your health insurance provider to find out whether it is covered by your health plan.

All support groups are not the same. You may try more than one group before you find the setting that is right for you. You may also find that online or telephone support groups offer a better fit for you than those you attend in person. There is no one "right" support group for everyone. The best support group is the one that works for you.

– Sue Rochman

 

For an additional list of organizations that offer support and other services for cancer patients, families, caregivers and advocates, please visit our Support and Advocacy Groups webpage.


If you find an old or broken link, please let us know by sending an email to advocacy@aacr.org.


March 14, 2014