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Patient Support // March 9, 2017 MAAC Staff

Finding Cancer Support Groups

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis takes a mental toll on both the patient and their family. It’s an overwhelming time with a rollercoaster of emotions, information overload, and so many important decisions to make. To put it simply, it’s a lot to handle at once.

Finding a cancer support group can be invaluable for a patient and their loved ones as they navigate their cancer journey. These groups can provide great insights from other cancer patients, caregivers, and practitioners to make a hard time a little easier.

Benefits of Cancer Support Groups

Patients and their families look for a support group for many reasons. Even though families can rely on one another for support, sometimes it’s even more helpful to hear from others going through similar experiences. According to the National Cancer Institute, some research even suggests that joining a support group has improved quality of life and survival.

Some of the benefits include:

  • A sense of camaraderie and empowerment
  • A boost to your emotional well being with a community to help support you
  • The opportunity to hear personal perspectives from those facing the same cancer or a similar treatment method
  • Interaction with different groups of people, including those facing cancer, survivors, and practitioners
  • Learning invaluable tips on coping with cancer, staying strong both physically and mentally
  • Family members can gain insight and tips on how to best care for their loved ones throughout their journey

Support groups can be invaluable for those facing any kind of diagnosis, but especially for those facing more rare or unusual cancers such as mesothelioma. With only about 3,000 diagnoses each year and a typically poor prognosis, it can be easy for mesothelioma patients to feel more alone or unsure of their path. Finding people who have faced the same diagnosis and treatment can give priceless insight on what to expect during and after treatment.

Learn more about support resources for mesothelioma patients

Considering a Support Group

There are various outlets available for patients and their families to seek support. Support groups don’t only have to be in-person meetings, but can be found online and even through conference calls. It’s important to consider what kind of format and environment would be most helpful for you.

Things to ask yourself while choosing a support group:

  • How large is the group?
  • Who generally leads the meetings (a survivor or counselor)?
  • Where and how often do these groups meet? How long do they meet for?
  • Who participates? Are they mostly current patients, survivors or caregivers?

Before joining one, patients might also want to consider if they feel comfortable sharing about their personal issues. Thinking about what you hope to gain from the group, as well as the value you can provide to the others, can also help narrow down the best option.

How to Find One

There are a few ways to go about finding a support group, depending on the type and format you desire. Typically, the clinic, hospital, or center where you are being treated will have a list of resources available and their own cancer support programs to choose from. Many national organizations, like the American Cancer Society, can also provide help in finding support groups. Most of these organizations also have their own phone lines or online forums to offer support. You may also find local offerings through various organizations in your area, like libraries or churches.

If you’re looking for an online support group, be sure to do some research first. Consider who is running or moderating the forum. Those found through a professional organization or center can often be more trustworthy and educational than a smaller, more personal group. Be cautious to speak with your doctor regarding any medical information you may receive.

Support groups can vary greatly, so it might even help to try a few different options and see what’s most helpful for you. Even if one ends in a bad experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean support groups aren’t right for you. Overall, joining a cancer support group can be a wonderful asset for patients and their families during such a hard time.