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How to Find the Best Women’s Cancer Support Groups: 5 Questions to Ask

Anyone who’s received a cancer diagnosis will agree: The illness affects much more than your physical body. You may be riding an emotional roller coaster while mentally processing heavy information and navigating the new social challenge of discussing your condition with others.

The good news is you’re not alone.

There are many women’s cancer support groups available to help you cope. You just need to find the best community for you. Here’s an easy way to get started.

Finding Support During Cancer Treatment

Before browsing the internet for women’s cancer support groups, confer with your treatment team to determine what exactly you’re looking for. Here are some of the things to consider before starting your search.

  • Local or remote? Are you up for traveling a short distance to gather face-to-face with others? Or should you use technology to meet online from the comfort of home?

  • Type-specific? There are over 100 types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. It’s ideal to find a cancer support group where members can speak directly to your experiences. But if that’s not possible, general cancer support groups may be equally helpful.

  • Would you like therapists, survivors, or caregivers to attend? Some groups pair long-term survivors with the recently diagnosed who are learning to handle a new lifestyle. Others are led by psychotherapists who specialize in cancer support for women and who volunteer their time and expertise.

  • Structured and regular, or spontaneous and free-form? Some group administrators follow a format while others simply facilitate an open discussion, letting the conversation meander. Depending on your personality, you might even prefer a group that does a little of both.

  • Activity-focused, or strictly conversational? Many women just want to process verbally together. Others want to combine fellowship with a healthy activity like yoga, art therapy, or light volunteer work.

You don’t need to answer all these questions — just the ones that matter to you. Once you know what you’re seeking, it’s time to locate, choose, and join a cancer support community.

The best resource for finding support during cancer isn’t always the internet. You should first talk with the people who know your situation best — your own cancer care team. Specialists and nurses at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital can connect you with the right group.

The Benefits of Finding Support

If you’re not yet convinced that a support group is for you, also consider these benefits:

  • Stress and anxiety relief. Studies show that cancer support for women via group therapy can help alleviate stress and anxiety associated with a cancer diagnosis.

  • More effective pain management, and possibly, better sleep. The stress triggered by a cancer diagnosis can sabotage sleep, cause nausea, and even increase pain. So managing that stress (often with the help of group therapy) can diminish its negative effects.

  • Experience-relevant information. Though your doctors can tell you what to expect physically, women’s cancer support groups can provide tips for coping with cancer emotionally and financially, and practical resources for daily life, among other benefits.

Many people have walked this path before you, learning countless valuable lessons that can help and encourage you during this challenging journey.

The members of your cancer care team already know that this diagnosis affects much more than the physical body. They can help you find mental, social, and emotional resources to ensure your whole person is cared for.