One in eight American women and one in 1,000 American men will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. It’s estimated that more than 2 million people are diagnosed with breast cancer and fight for their lives each year.
Breast cancer is difficult to face alone—for both patients and their loved ones. To help in the battle, there are local resources and support groups, including:
- Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville offers a breast cancer support group that meets monthly. Click here for more information.
- Hope Connections for Cancer Support meets the second Tuesday of the month, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. (5430 Grosvenor Ln., Suite 100, Bethesda, MD.)
- Suburban Hospital in Bethesda offers an active breast cancer support group meets on the second Monday of each month, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the hospital, and is open to all breast cancer survivors, their families and friends. Drop-ins are welcome. (Suburban Hospital, 8600 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, MD.)
- Women with Cancer Support Group is for women with gynecological cancer or breast cancer. Each session features creative activities. It meets on the fourth Monday of every month, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Registration required; call 202-444-2118. (Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3800 Reservoir Rd., Washington, DC.)
- Young Women's Breast Cancer Support Group is for women age 40 and under with breast cancer. It meets on the first Wednesday of every month, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Registration required; call 202-444-3755. (Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3800 Reservoir Rd., Washington, DC.)
- Women's Advanced Cancer Support Group meets on the third Thursday of the month, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Registration required; call 202-444-3755. (Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3800 Reservoir Rd., Washington, DC.)
- Mothers Support Daughters with Breast Cancer, based in Maryland, offers support and resources to mothers and daughters fighting cancer, including one-on-one support from volunteer mothers whose daughters have been diagnosed. Founded by mom Charmayne Dierker and daughter Lillie Shockney, the organization has helped more than 10,000 women since 1995.
- Also based in Maryland, Men Against Breast Cancer offers online resources to men who want to support women in their lives with breast cancer. The organization is sponsoring the 10th Annual Think Pink & Blue Award Reception and Fashion Event on Oct. 25 at Congressional Country Club in Chevy Chase. Click here for more information.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure has more information about finding a support group online or in your community.
“Support groups are really beneficial,” says Dr. Debra Somerrs Copit, director of breast imaging at Albert Einstein Medical Center, and a member of the medical advisory board for Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
“When patients are told they’re sick, it can be an out of body experience and they aren’t taking in everything the doctor is saying. It can be helpful to have someone to turn to and learn from who has gone through the same thing,” says Copit, who is a breast cancer survivor herself.
Not only do groups offer emotional support, but being a part of a support group can actually help patients feel less depressed and can help to reduce physical pain, according to a 2001 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Patients who aren’t big fans of group settings but still want to reap the benefits can turn to technology. It’s hard to duplicate in-person support groups on the web, but the recently launched breast cancer specific social networking platform, MyBreastCancerTeam comes close.
The site and mobile app caters to breast cancer survivors, and to women who have been recently diagnosed. Users can find suggestions for doctors and find similar users based on location, diagnosis and age. Members also have access to a peer-driven Q&A section where they can read and write posts.
While a web platform may be useful for some, Copit worries that online forums can sometimes trigger the spread of misinformation. She suggests that patients who can’t make it to an in-person support group try calling a phone line.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer has a confidential survivors’ helpline that connects patients with others of similar backgrounds and going through similar situations. Call 888-753-LBBC (5222) for more information.
Do you know of any breast cancer support groups in the community? How have they helped you? Tell us in the comments.