Small group meetings of people facing similar challenges help many people in managing distress and side effects of cancer treatments.

Support groups and interventions at a glance

Support groups bring together people with similar circumstances or challenges. They provide a safe place for patients to share feelings and challenges, helping many people cope with the emotional aspects of cancer. Groups also allow people to learn from others facing similar situations. 

Groups may meet face-to-face or online. They may be peer-led, or they may be moderated and led by a professional therapist or leader (but without providing psychotherapy, which would be a different type of group). Other support interventions described here include one-on-one peer support and print support materials meant to mimic information from a support group.

Support groups come in many different styles, with different purposes, and the interpersonal connections within them are unique to each group. For these reasons, assessing therapeutic effects is challenging. What may work well with one group or at a particular time (such as during chemotherapy) or with a specific type of cancer (such as prostate) may not translate well to other situations. 

We have reviewed the published literature on support groups and interventions among people with cancer and offer the following ratings, but we suspect that individual experiences vary widely. Many people find support groups helpful, especially in managing distressemotional, social, spiritual, or physical pain or suffering that may cause a person to feel sad, afraid, depressed, anxious, or lonely; people in distress may also feel that they are not able to manage or cope with changes caused by normal life activities or by having a disease, such as cancer and side effects of cancer treatments.

If you believe a support group may help you through a difficult experience, we encourage you to find a group and try it out. If one group doesn’t work for you, you may need to try another one, or more than one, to find a good match. More than with many other therapies, finding a group that fits your interaction style and level, and your psychosocial and physical needs, is likely going to be key to your success.

CancerChoices ratings for support groups and interventions

We rate support groups and interventions on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest.

See how we evaluate and rate complementary therapies ›

1

Treating cancer

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3

Optimizing your body terrain

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4

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

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0

Reducing cancer risk

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4

Use by integrative oncology experts

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5

Safety

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5

Affordability and access

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Resources

Keep reading about support groups and interventions

Author

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewer

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: May 25, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.