Where to find breast cancer support

A breast cancer diagnosis can be a tremendous shock, and the concerns it brings can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to face it alone. Many kinds of resources are available to you, including online, phone, and in-person support. These resources can help you navigate:

  • Medical decisions
  • Potential side effects
  • Practical concerns

Having support can also help you navigate the emotional, interpersonal, and professional life issues that can arise during or after your active treatment.

Some types of support, such as talking with your hospital social worker or a licensed counselor, can provide help for strengthening communication and relationships with family, friends, and your healthcare team.

LBBC is here for you. We offer help in several ways:

  • Visit our Get support page to learn more about our resources. Through work with leading healthcare, wellness, legal, and financial professionals, we bring you current, trusted information to assist you as you face the realities of breast cancer. 
     
  • You can visit Breast cancer resources and support for even more support available with other organizations. Check here for groups offering emotional, financial, legal, and career guidance, plus help tailored to the needs of specific communities, such as Black women, Jewish women, young women, and men who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. Your hospital may also offer in-person or virtual support groups for people diagnosed with breast cancer.
     
  • LBBC also offers a telephone Breast Cancer Helpline for one-on-one support, staffed by trained volunteers who have personal experience with breast cancer. On the Helpline page, you can complete our online match form. Or, call us at 888-753-5222 to let us know the kind of support you need. One of our volunteers will get back to you within two business days. The service is free, and all conversations are confidential.

We know that a diagnosis can bring so many questions. “How will my family cope?” “Will I be able to work during treatment?” “I’m single. How do I bring this up with people I date?” “I want to have children; will treatment affect my fertility?” All aspects of your life, as well as your plans for the future, can be thrown into some degree of chaos. But having support can make a big difference and reduce the pressure.

On this page, we’ll walk you through decision-making about different kinds of support groups.

Is a support group right for me?

Many people with breast cancer find support groups helpful, but others decide that this kind of resource is not for them. There’s no right answer, and there’s no harm in trying something to see if it suits you, understanding that it may or may not.

Benefits of support groups can include:

  • Learning from others who are facing the same things you are
  • Being able to ask questions that people who’ve never had cancer might not understand
  • Gaining a sense of connection to ease the isolation cancer can bring

On the other hand, if you attend a support group and find that it’s not the kind of help you want, there’s no need to force it. Remember that there are groups available to you during and after your active treatment; you can tap into them if or when you need them. You may also decide that a program offering one-on-one support, with someone else who’s been diagnosed or with a professional counselor, works better for you. 

It can help to just understand what you need at different points along the way, and sometimes, that’s not easy. A social worker or nurse navigator at your hospital can help you get clarity on what may feel most supportive, and connect you with an appropriate group to try.

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Types of breast cancer support groups

Some support groups have a specific focus, such as:

  • Education about breast cancer treatment, possibly including current research
  • Emotional support as you face breast cancer
  • Practical advice as you recover from surgeries or treatments

Support groups may be open or closed. Open groups allow anyone to join, while closed groups screen potential members through an application or approval process. 

If you’re looking at different kinds of groups, you’ll notice that many overlap in what they offer. For example, there may be emotional support available in a few different kinds of groups, such as a private Facebook group or a facilitated video meetup. A general cancer support group may offer great connection and shared experiences of feelings about diagnosis, treatment, and relationship issues. But sometimes you may be looking for more specific support that’s just for people diagnosed with breast cancer. And some people decide to join more than one group. See what feels right to you.

Common types of breast cancer support groups include the following:

Professional-led support groups

These groups are often offered by hospitals or nonprofit organizations focused on cancer, and are led by a trained professional such as a licensed counselor, social worker, or psychologist. Your cancer center, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute are all great places find a professional-led support group. These groups may offer a more formal structure than other kinds of groups, and can feel safe and reliable. They often meet on a regular basis, such as once a week or once a month.

 

Informational or educational groups

These groups are often led by professional facilitators and provide information about breast cancer topics such as treatment options, managing side effects, or practical issues such as working during treatment. Through these groups, you can learn more about what to expect and what to do if certain situations arise. They can also be helpful for loved ones and caregivers as a source of advice and preparation. If you’re deciding whether to join a group like this, find out the group leader’s credentials and experience so you can feel confident in the information being shared.

 

Specialized support groups

Specialized support groups are designed for certain groups of people to connect about their unique experiences. Examples include support groups you can find at the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, or the Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) hereditary cancer private Facebook group. A specialized support group can help reduce the feelings of isolation that can sometimes happen with cancer experiences that might be considered less common than others.

 

Online support groups

Any type of support group — professional-led, specialized, or informational — can happen in person or online.

Virtual support groups can be held through video conferencing websites such as Zoom or Google Meet, or through discussion boards, where members type and post their questions and comments. There are also many social media groups, which you can find by searching on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

The COVID-19 pandemic means more people are attending virtual support group meetings than ever before.

Telephone support

If you aren’t able to get to an in-person group or do not have access to the technology needed for a video chat group, a good option might be telephone support, such as the LBBC Breast Cancer Helpline, or email support. Cancer and caregiving organizations may offer telephone support hotlines or email addresses that you can contact when you need basic information or someone to talk to. Often, telephone helplines and email support request messages are answered by health professionals, trained counselors, or volunteers. Keep in mind that responses may not be immediate. Visit Breast cancer support resources to learn more about organizations offering phone and email support.

 

Population specific

There are also groups available for specific individuals within the breast cancer community, such as:

  • People living with metastatic disease
  • Family members of people with breast cancer
  • Caregivers of people in treatment
  • Long-term partners and spouses, including husbands, wives, or other partners of people facing breast cancer

Learn more about different kinds of support groups, including LBBC’s private Facebook groups.

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Which support group is right for you?

Here are some things to consider as you’re looking at different kinds of support groups:  

  • Would you like to attend a group on your own or with loved ones?
  • What are you hoping to get from the group experience? Social or emotional support? Practical information? A greater understanding of cancer and treatment options?
  • Is this group for you, or are you seeking a group to recommend to family members, friends, or caregivers who need information and support beyond what you have the energy or expertise to give?
  • Are you comfortable sharing your experiences and questions with others you may not know? Are you comfortable hearing the stories and experiences others may share?
  • Do you prefer meetings in person, or by video or phone at home?
  • Do you want live, real-time meetings or do you prefer to use email, texts, or online discussion groups to communicate when it’s convenient for you?
  • Do you feel comfortable with an open group that anyone can join? Or do you prefer a group that is selected or moderated by a professional or organization?

Once you answer these questions for yourself, a great first step is to let your healthcare team know what you’re looking for and ask them for recommendations. Or, talk to people you know who may have been through cancer diagnosis and treatment. And remember, there are always options:

  • You can try different groups until you find one that fits.
  • You can join multiple groups if you choose.
  • Over time, different groups may become more or less relevant to what you’re experiencing, and it’s okay to change groups or take a break.

Woman looking at computer, Photo by Tiger Lily from Pexels

Support groups aren’t one size fits all. If you realize that you prefer NOT to share your feelings and experiences with a group, that is okay, too. Some people prefer one-on-one support with a therapist or counselor. For others, sharing with family and friends feels better.

It’s also important to know the difference between support groups and therapy groups. Therapy groups:

  • Are led by a licensed therapist
  • May charge a fee
  • Can sometimes be covered by insurance
  • Are for people needing more support for mental health issues

If you and your healthcare team determine that individual therapy could be beneficial for you, neither support groups nor therapy groups are substitutes for that. Instead, they can be used as sources of extra support in addition to individual therapy. 

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Join a group

You can take many paths to finding support, depending on your particular needs and the kind of assistance you’re looking for. Here, we’ll share some ways to join a support group.

In-person support groups

Ask your oncologist, a hospital social worker, or your nurse navigator for groups that are being held at your cancer center or in your area.

The American Cancer Society also has a search function by ZIP code that can help you to see what’s available in your area.

Online discussion boards

  • Join a group through LBBC: We offer a private “all ages, all stages” Facebook group, a Facebook group for younger women and a Facebook group for those at high risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Reach to Recovery is the virtual breast cancer support group of the American Cancer Society.
  • The Young Survival Coalition offers many resources for younger women with breast cancer, including a Facebook discussion group.
  • Breastcancer.org offers a discussion board with subgroups for different topics.
  • The Male Breast Cancer Coalition offers information and resources for men diagnosed with breast cancer, including a discussion board.
  • Jack’s Caregiver Coalition has a discussion board for men who are helping a loved one through a health crisis. It also offers men the option to be paired with a trained volunteer coach for one-on-one support.

Zoom or other video support groups

  • MD Anderson Cancer Center offers Zoom support groups for people with different needs, including individuals with a personal cancer history or currently in active treatment. Groups are also offered for people living with metastatic breast cancer, as well as for caregivers.
  • SHARE Cancer Support is currently offering support groups and seminars on Zoom, as well as in-person meetings in several locations in New York City. SHARE offers support and information for women diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer. It also offers resources for loved ones and caregivers and has dedicated groups for women with metastatic disease.

You can also ask your healthcare team or nurse navigator if Zoom support groups are available through your hospital.

Woman on phone, Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Support by phone

In addition to LBBC’s Breast Cancer Helpline, the CancerCare website offers help from oncology social workers by phone as well as other online and in-person support resources.

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LBBC resources to remember:

Here’s a reminder of support resources you can find on our site.

 

Updated 
January 5, 2022