If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you may find joining a cancer support group to be beneficial for your journey.
Support groups are designed to connect you with others who are dealing with similar circumstances. They can provide a safe place for you to talk about what you’re experiencing and offer information about treatment.
Types of Cancer Support Groups
A cancer support group is a meeting that provides a safe space for people who are affected by cancer to share experiences and emotions with other people who are in a similar situation. There are many different types of support groups designed to meet individual needs and situations.
General or Specific
Many support groups are designed to bring together those with a specific type of cancer. For example, there may be a group in your community for those dealing with breast cancer or prostate cancer.
Others are broader and designed to help patients with various forms of cancer to connect with one another and find commonalities in their situations.
Peer-Led or Professionally Led Support Groups
Leadership in support groups can also vary. While many support groups are peer-led, there are other groups that may be led by a professional psychologist or counselor that can help you work through the emotions, side effects, or stress that you’re going through.
If you’re not comfortable sharing your personal experiences, you may find a support group led by a professional facilitator to be helpful. These groups tend to be more informational and provide professional advice, often through guest speakers.
In-Person or Virtual
If meeting in-person isn’t something that appeals to you — or you’re concerned about the time involved — there are online options available as well.
Internet support groups have increased in popularity over the past several years and offer a way to discuss your concerns with others without face-to-face interaction. Some online groups meet in real-time while others involve message boards or chat rooms that can be accessed and responded to at your convenience. There are also conference call-style groups available where participants can call in to have a conversation at a scheduled time.
Patient or Family Members
While many support groups are for cancer patients or survivors, there are also cancer support groups for family members and friends of someone who is dealing with cancer. These groups can be particularly beneficial as they can offer tips for a conversation with the patient as well as clarification on treatment types and support for caregivers.
Still, other groups are combined with both patients and family members to allow for a broader conversation.
How To Choose a Support Group
Choosing a support group is really a matter of personal preference. Are you comfortable sharing in person? Do you want to discuss the emotional parts of your treatment or care?
Or, would you prefer a more informational experience in the comfort of your home? Would you prefer a specific support group or something more general?
Once you have identified your preferences, try reaching out to your local American Cancer Society or talk with your care provider about support group options available to you. While many support groups are free, some may charge a small fee. If this is the case, check with your insurance provider to see if these fees may be covered.
You may decide to visit several different groups before you find one that works best for your needs.