Developing a Breast Cancer Support Group in a Community Cancer Center

November 2018 Vol 9, NO 11
Susana Ulloa, MD, RN, OCN
Sarah Cannon North Florida Division, North Florida Regional Medical Center
Gainesville, FL
Cynthia Kuhn, RN, CBCN
Sarah Cannon

Background: Evidence suggests that cancer survivors who participate in support groups are less depressed and anxious,1 have better social well-being,2 and are more knowledgeable about their disease process.3 In these 2 Community Cancer Centers (CCC), a majority of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients expressed a desire for peer-to-peer interaction during informal face-to-face meetings and phone conversations with the navigators. Navigators recognized specific stressors and barriers identified during evaluation of these interactions.

Objective: Establishing a monthly support group in CCC.

Methods: At West Florida Hospital (WFH) and North Florida Regional Medical Center (NFRMC), 2 similar-sized hospitals on the Gulf Coast and in central Florida serving a variety of clientele in urban and rural locations, navigators used a simple phone survey of newly diagnosed and completed treatment individuals. This evidenced that 88% wanted a support group. A phone survey of local, available support groups revealed limited groups devoted to breast cancer.

To identify group parameters, target population, and potential activities/speakers, a navigator at NFRMC met via phone with a social worker experienced in support groups. Navigators at WFH met with the Director of Oncology, American Cancer Society, and read literature on support group models. Some limitations and barriers in creating and facilitating the support groups include establishing an adequate time and setting, facilitating an agenda and focus that allowed time for group discussion, and how to advertise the support group. A survey was collected post group initiation that evaluated efficacy and attendance in meetings. Verbal feedback was received from patients at the end of each session.

Results: The identified psychosocial needs helped establish the mission and model of the support groups. This evidence proved a need for a support group program for affected breast cancer patients in both facilities with barriers converted into future topics for monthly discussions. Monthly group meetings started in October 2016 at NFRMC and in October 2017 for WFH facilitated by navigators, psychologists, and social workers.

The support group at WFH has met on 3 occasions, serving 11 individuals. The support group at NFRMC has met 13 times, serving 60 individuals. Through attendance and a phone survey for patients’ perception of benefit obtained, 100% agreed they have better coping skills and consider the groups beneficial.

Conclusion: Through the creation of dedicated breast cancer support groups, affected patients had the opportunity to participate in identified groups. Patients continue to report improved coping skills and continue to participate in the groups. WFH is a newly formed support group compared with the established support group at NFRMC; we have enlisted WFH leadership to assist with advertising so we can continue to grow, improve attendance, and serve the clientele in surrounding urban and rural locations.
Note: This abstract was accepted without revisions to the National Consortium of Breast Centers for poster presentation during the 2018 conference.


  1. Yaskowich KM, Stam HJ. Cancer narratives and the cancer support group. J Health Psychol. 2003;8:720-737.
  2. Ahlberg L, Nordner A. The importance of participation in support groups for women with ovarian cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2006;33:E53-E61.
  3. Barg FK, Gullatte MM. Cancer support groups: meeting the needs of African Americans with cancer. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2001;17:171-178.
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