The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Support groups and breast cancer survival

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table

Introduction: Some randomized controlled trials have studied whether support groups improve long-term survival for women with breast cancer.

A 1989 landmark study found women with metastatic breast cancer lived an average of 18 months longer if they joined a support group [1]. However, more recent, larger studies have found no benefit from support groups on breast cancer survival [2-7].

Support may still be important to survival. Some data suggest women with breast cancer who have more social support have better survival (see Table 53).

The differences in results may be due to the types of social support studied.

Cohort studies have mostly studied the social support people get from social networks, such as friends and family. Randomized trials have mostly studied social support from strangers, such as support groups.

Further studies are needed to know whether there is a difference between these two kinds of social support and breast cancer survival.

Study selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials with at least 50 participants and meta-analyses

Study

Study Population
(number of participants)

Follow-up
(years)

Better Survival for Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer who Attended Support Groups Compared to Those who Did Not?

Yes / No

Randomized controlled trials

Kissane et al. [2]

303

7*

No†

Goodwin et al. [3]    

235

2

No

Edelman et al. [4]

121

5

No

Spiegel et al. [5]    

125

14

No

Spiegel et al. [1]

86

10

Yes

Cunningham et al. [6]

66

5

No

Meta-analyses

Mustafa et al. [7]

6 studies

1

Yes

 

4 studies

5

No

Jassim et al. [8]

2 studies

Various

No†

* Estimated from data in study.  

† Participants were women with early stage breast cancer.

References 

1. Spiegel D, Bloom JR, Kraemer HC, et al. Effect of psychosocial treatment on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Lancet. 2:888-891, 1989.

2. Kissane DW, Love A, Hatton A, et al. Effect of cognitive-existential group therapy on survival in early-stage breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 22(21):4255-60, 2004.

3. Goodwin PJ, Leszcz M, Ennis M, et al. The effect of group psychosocial support on survival in metastatic breast cancer. New Engl J Med. 345(24):1719-1726, 2001.

4. Edelman S, Lemon J, Bell DR, et al. Effects of group CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) on the survival time of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology. 8:474-481, 1999.

5. Spiegel D, Butler LD, Giese-Davis J, et al. Effects of supportive-expressive group therapy on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer: a randomized prospective trial. Cancer. 110(5):1130-8, 2007.

6. Cunningham AJ, Edmonds CVI, Jenkins GP, et al. A randomized controlled trial of the effects of group psychological therapy on survival in women with metastatic breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology. 7:508-517, 1998.

7. Mustafa M, Carson-Stevens A, Gillespie D, Edwards AG. Psychological interventions for women with metastatic breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (6):CD004253, 2013.

8. Jassim GA, Whitford DL, Hickey A, Carter B. Psychological interventions for women with non-metastatic breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (5):CD008729, 2015.  

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