Perceptions of Support Groups Among Older Breast Cancer Survivors: “I've Heard of Them, but I've Never Felt the Need to Go”

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Abstract

Background:

Cancer survivors transitioning from active treatment to posttreatment may lack critical support and information about their posttreatment care. Support groups have the potential to address this gap.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to describe how breast cancer survivors 65 years and older perceived professionally led, in-person support groups.

Methods:

Individual interviews with 54 women were analyzed using grounded theory informed by constructivism.

Results:

Strong negative assumptions about cancer support groups were described. Tension existed between two opposing categories: participants' preconceptions of support groups and characterizations of their members and the women's perceptions of their own informational and emotional needs. Participants also described what sources of support they used in lieu of professionally led support groups.

Conclusions:

Despite awareness and availability, most participants did not use support groups as a resource during their primary or post–cancer treatment.

Implications for Practice:

Structural changes can benefit existing models of support groups including how and when support needs and services are discussed with survivors and a shift toward the inclusion of practical information.

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