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

Are you a health professional?

This section does not replicate the other information on this topic but provides additional details or context most relevant to professionals.

Referring patients to support groups

Considering that support groups can be quite helpful to improve the experience of living with cancer, you may wish to refer your patients to cancer support groups offered by credible organizations. A large survey found that almost a quarter of cancer survivors engaged in support groups. However, the percentage of participants reporting that their physician recommended a support group was low—10.2%.1Owen JE, Goldstein MS, Lee JH, Breen N, Rowland JH. Use of health-related and cancer-specific support groups among adult cancer survivors. Cancer. 2007 Jun 15;109(12):2580-9. 

If you don’t have time to vet groups for quality and credibility, consider having an oncology social worker, nurse or navigator speak with your patient and help them identify a group that’s a good fit.

Can support groups and interventions promote behavior change? 

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of behavior change with one-on-one peer support, but no evidence of changes in health-related behavior among people participating in an online forum with peer support 

  • One-on-one peer support: Higher self-reported levels of exercise (the goal of the intervention) at 3 months among men with localized prostate cancer with a monthly telephone-based group peer support for 6 months supported by self-management materials and exercise equipment compared to usual care in a mid-sized RCTrandomized controlled trial, a study design in which people are randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a control group to compare the outcomes from different treatments; an RCT is considered a strong design for determining a therapy’s effects2Galvão DA, Newton RU et al. Randomized controlled trial of a peer led multimodal intervention for men with prostate cancer to increase exercise participation. Psycho-oncology. 2018 Jan;27(1):199-207.
  • Web-based education and support group: No evidence of an effectoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to an expected outcome; this does not always mean that there is no effect in clinical practice, but that the studies may have been underpowered (too few participants) or poorly designed. Larger, well-designed studies provide more confidence in making assessments. on colorectal cancer screening among members of an online weight-loss community who were not up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening receiving an intervention of education, narratives, and peer support for screening in online forums compared to education alone in a mid-sized RCT; only 57% of those in the enhanced group joined the online team3Hwang KO, Ottenbacher AJ et al. Online narratives and peer support for colorectal cancer screening: a pilot randomized trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013 Jul;45(1):98-107.

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: October 7, 2022

Last full literature review: October 2021

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.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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