Iris Mini: Cancer Support Groups

Cancer support groups are meetings (in person or virtual) for people living with or impacted by cancer.

Benefits of support groups include: 

  • Emotional support and ability to connect with other people coping with cancer 

  • Opportunity to talk openly about your feelings outside of your usual support network

  • Discuss resources and practical supports 

  • Help with building coping skills and managing side effects 

  • Studies show that support groups can improve quality of life, mood, and pain and can help reduce isolation, stress, and anxiety

There are many types of cancer support groups available, and they are free of charge. However, they are not for everyone! It is important to consider if participating in a group might increase your distress when hearing about others' experiences. Additionally, timing is important. Some people want support from others immediately after a diagnosis, while others are feeling too vulnerable and overwhelmed during that time. 

How Do I Know If This Support Group is Right for Me? 

Think about what type of support might be helpful and what you are hoping to get out of a group. Are you most interested in connecting with others with a similar diagnosis to discuss coping, or are you looking to hear practical tips and disease-specific advice? Are you open to sharing your emotions and hearing from others about their experiences? Consider how it might be for you to hear about other people's emotions and experiences. Are you generally someone who has a difficult time hearing others' distress? What will it be like to hear other's stories if they include unsuccessful treatments and facing end-of-life care?

  • Connect with the facilitator, if possible, to discuss if your needs / hopes match the group.

  • Some groups don’t have professional facilitators; determine if this is fine or if it feels uncomfortable to you.

  • Consider attending a few times before deciding if it is a good fit. Each group and meeting are different, and it can often take a little time to see if the group might be helpful.

  • If there is a choice of groups, try each out and decide which best fits your needs. 


*Goodwin et al. The Effect of Group Psychosocial Support on Survival in Metastatic Breast Cancer. New Engl J Med 2001; 345:1719-1726. PMID: 11742045

*Classen C, Butler LD, Koopman C, et al. Supportive-expressive group therapy and distress in patients with metastatic breast cancer: a randomized clinical intervention trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2001;58:494-501. PMID: 11343530