One in 8 American women and 1 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 a number of local resources and support groups.
- Heritage Valley Health System offers a breast cancer support group at the Beaver campus. Call 724-773-7608 for more information or click here to see a list of classes.
- UPMC Passavant offers a support group that meets at 7 p.m. every other Thursday on Babcock Boulevard. This support group is offered by the Cancer Caring Center for women who have had breast cancer. Guest speakers are invited each time to speak of a topic of interest. Click here for more information.
- Magee-Women's Hospital offers several free classes including the upcoming " Breast Cancer: Cooking and Eating for a Healthy Lifestyle" presented on Oct. 10 by Magee-Women's Nutrition Services. Another class on Nov. 13 is " Breast Cancer Caregivers: What You Can Do to Help."
- West Penn Allegheny Health System is offering a " Dance in My Shoes" program for breast cancer survivors from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at Allegheny General Hospital. This event is for all breast cancer survivors and family members. Learn to celebrate and dance as WPAHS honors breast cancer survivorship. Dr. Betsy Blazek-O'Neill will speak on "What Now? - How to Deal with the Anxieties of Being a Cancer Survivor." "Dance with the Doctors" will feature Drs. Raymond, Poller, D. Keenan, Trombetta, Slomski, and Erb., followed by open dancing. The event also features shoe decorating, judging and awards, and heavy hors d' oeuvres and cocktails. To register, call Physician Access at 1-877-284-2000 or click here.
“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 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 peer-driven Q&A section where they can read and write posts.
While a web platform may be useful for some, Dr. 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 background, going through similar situation. Call (888) 753-LBBC (5222) for more information.