People who are going through difficult experiences often find it helpful to talk with others who are in similar situations. For cancer patients, support groups can be a place to share your feelings and experiences with others who may be going through—or who have gone through—the same things.
Most people with cancer find it helpful to connect with other people who have been affected by cancer.
Support Groups Overview
Support groups for cancer patients and survivors come in many shapes and sizes. Some meet in hospitals, at community centers, or at a patient’s home, while others can take place over the phone or online. They can be facilitated by medical professionals or patients themselves.
Support groups may include different types of people and may have different formats. For example, some support groups may be open to anyone with cancer and their family members, and others may be organized by gender, type of cancer, or stage of treatment. Also, some meetings may be ongoing with walk-ins welcome, and others may involve a set group of people who meet for a specific period of time.
What to Look For in a Support Group
Whichever type of group you choose, group leaders should remind all participants that the information discussed in the group is private and confidential. You should feel free to share your thoughts with the others and know that what you say will not leave the room. Other factors you might want to consider when looking for a group include the following:
- Group leadership. While there may be advantages to attending groups led by cancer survivors, professionals will very likely be licensed in their field and/or experience in leading groups.
- Phase of your illness. Support groups for one phase of illness may not be appropriate for someone going through a totally different phase.
- Comfort level with other members. You’ll want to feel comfortable sharing openly about your experiences, but it may take some time to get there.
- Specialized support, such as managing depression or groups for teens. And some problems, like ongoing issues in your marriage, are better handled in settings with fewer people.
Find Support Groups
The American Cancer Society and CancerCare® offer a variety of support services to help cancer patients and their loved ones understand their disease, organize their lives through treatment and recovery, and find the emotional support they need.
ACS Resource Search
The American Cancer Society’s Resource Search can help you find a support group in your area. Just type in your ZIP code or city and state, along with a keyword, or you can search from a list of program types. For personalized assistance, call 1-800-227-2345.
CancerCare® Online offers free private support groups for adults. To ensure confidentiality, the site requires that you register as a member. Professional oncology social workers lead the support groups, which take place using a secure message board, and offer support and guidance. Register here.
The ACS Cancer Survivors Network
The Cancer Survivors Network is an online community where survivors and their families can share their stories and get support.
- The network is a free service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- No registration is required to access the discussion boards or search the content for specific topics.
- Registration is required to access all areas of the community and actively participate in its many interactive features.
- Members can search for people with similar cancer experiences or interests, either by entering certain demographic information or by using keywords.
- Interactive features include a private and secure messaging service, discussion boards, chat rooms, and Expressions Gallery, a personal Web space for each member to tell his or her story, blog, and post photos, music, and other resources.
Learn More About Peer-to-Peer Support
The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have additional resources to help you, including online information about Cancer Support Groups.