June 23rd, 2012 by Hasham
What are support groups?
Support groups are groups of people in similar life situations who meet on a regular basis to share their concerns. A support group is a safe place to exchange ideas about how to handle difficult issues. Support groups can meet regularly in person, by telephone, or online.
Support groups can be organized in different ways:
* Open membership: Open membership means that members can come and go freely, and long-term commitment is not required. If you’re going through treatment and your schedule isn’t consistent, this may be the type of group for you.
* Closed membership: Closed membership means that registration and commitment to a certain number of sessions is required. Once a specific number of people have signed up, the group is closed to new members. This helps members to establish consistency and to get to know each other better.
Some of the benefits of breast cancer support groups include:
* connection during an experience that can sometimes feel isolating
* tips and information from those who’ve been through the same thing
* opportunities to use your knowledge to help others
Research on support groups in people with breast cancer
There have been a number of studies about the potential benefits of support groups for people with breast cancer. In 2005, a review article compared 5 studies (one not yet complete) involving support groups for patients with metastatic breast cancer. The article reported that while one study identified increased survival time resulting from participation in support groups, 9 other studies did not show survival benefits. All of the studies, however, reported that participation in support groups resulted in positive effects on psychological well-being.
The study that did show survival benefit was published in 1989. In this controlled study, 86 women with metastatic breast cancer were followed. Half of the women had been enrolled in a weekly support group during medical treatment. The other half did not participate in a support group. The women in the support group met weekly for a year. In addition to regular support group participation, these women were also taught self-hypnosis to manage pain.
The author followed up with participants after 10 years. Three of the women were alive and medical records were obtained for the other 83 women. The records showed that the women in the support group lived on average twice as long (37 months) as the women who had not attended a support group (19 months). The women attending the support group also reported a higher quality of life.
While these study results are encouraging, the results from other studies are mixed on whether participating in support groups can lengthen life. Studies have shown, however, that support groups can provide an increased quality of life for people with breast cancer.
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