Getting the Support You Need.

Social Support

What is social support?

Social support is the emotional support, practical help, advice and other benefits you get from interactions with people in your life, including:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Spiritual advisors
  • Co-workers and supervisors
  • Health care providers
  • Other cancer survivors

Social support can take many forms.

It may be as informal as a sympathetic ear of a close friend, or as formal as a support group or seeing a therapist. This support helps you feel loved, cared for and understood.

Social support can also be practical help. Family and friends may give you rides to and from treatments or help with cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and child care. Your boss may help you find ways to balance your job and treatment schedule.

Learn more about social support in the drawers below.

Family and friends

Family and friends (especially spouses, partners and children) often play key roles in supporting those they love through the tough times of diagnosis and treatment [1].

However, breast cancer can strain relationships and some people notice a withdrawal of emotional support from close friends and family members [2]. At the time when they are needed most, the people close to you may be less supportive than usual. This can happen to anyone, so it’s important to be ready to seek support from others if you need it.

Even when relationships with family and friends are not strained, other sources of support (such as support groups) can be helpful.

Find a list of local, online and telephone social support.

Support groups and one-on-one therapy

Support groups vary in their focus. Some groups mainly provide information and education. Others focus on emotional support.

There are in-person support groups and online support networks.

Some people prefer to meet one-on-one with a counselor.

Learn more about support groups and how to find one that’s right for you.

Learn more about counseling and how to find a therapist.

Spiritual and religious organizations

Spiritual and religious faith can be a source of strength and help some people cope with a breast cancer diagnosis [3].

Religious communities offer a close-knit and supportive environment and many host support groups for people living with cancer.

Whether it’s informal support from family and friends, or more formal support from a support group or one-on-one therapy, social support can improve your quality of life [1,4-9].

Social support may reduce [5-9]:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Emotional distress and depression
  • Fatigue
  • The experience of pain

Social support may improve [5-9]:

  • Ability to cope with stress
  • Feelings of control 
  • Mood
  • Self-image
  • Sexual function and enjoyment

As you recover and adjust to life after breast cancer treatment, social support may help maintain [1,10-11]:

  • Physical well-being
  • Ability to perform daily tasks

 

Although social support can improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s unclear whether it can improve survival [1,4-9].

Cohort studies suggest women diagnosed with breast cancer who have more social support have better survival than those with less support [12-16]. Randomized controlled trials, however, suggest no survival benefit from support groups [17-20].

The difference in findings 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 cancer survivor support groups.

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

 

For a summary of research studies on social support and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research section.  

 

For a summary of research studies on support groups and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research section.  

Health care providers (such as your oncologist, surgeon, nurses, patient navigator and social worker) can offer information, hope and advice. Sometimes, talking with providers can be hard though.

Some people feel embarrassed or rushed to ask questions, or simply don’t know what to ask. Sometimes, providers seem too busy to help.

Komen has resources to help improve communication with your health care team:

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and American Cancer Society also have tips on talking with providers. 

For some, dealing with breast cancer can lead to serious depression and severe emotional distress. Depression needs to be treated, just like the breast cancer itself.

If you feel you may be depressed, talk with your health care provider.

Learn about the signs of depression and how depression may be treated.

Health care providers (including patient navigators and social workers), hospitals and religious organizations (such as churches and synagogues) can help you find a local support group.

Our breast care helpline 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) can help you find local, online or telephone support programs.

The organizations below may also be helpful.

4th Angel – Patient and Caregiver Mentoring Program
Offers telephone support programs for women living with breast cancer and their caregivers.
www.4thangel.org/

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD)
Offers online and telephone support for people diagnosed with breast cancer and their loved ones.
1-800-977-4121
https://https://www.abcdbreastcancersupport.org

American Cancer Society
Find local support programs and services.
www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html

American Cancer Society – Cancer Survivors Network
Offers an online community where people diagnosed with breast cancer and caregivers share their experiences and recommend helpful resources.
www.csn.cancer.org/

American Cancer Society – Reach to Recovery
Connects people newly diagnosed with breast cancer and their families with trained volunteers (who are breast cancer survivors) in their area.
1-800-227-2345
www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services/reach-to-recovery.html

Cancer and Careers
Find information for working women with cancer.
www.cancerandcareers.org/

Cancer Support Community(formerly Gilda’s Club Worldwide and The Wellness Community)
Offers in-person, online and telephone support for people diagnosed with breast cancer and their loved ones.
1-888-793-9355
www.cancersupportcommunity.org

CancerCare
Find an online support group.
www.cancercare.org/

CancerConnect
Find an online support group.
www.cancerconnect.com

CaringBridge
Offers personal, protected sites with multiple privacy settings where people can stay connected during any type of health event. An online planner can help family and friends coordinate care and helpful tasks.
www.caringbridge.org

Here for the Girls
Offers online and in-person support for young women affected by breast cancer.
www.hereforthegirls.org/support/

Imerman Angels
Offers online support programs for women and men living with cancer and their caregivers.
https://www.imermanangels.org/

Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Find information on breast cancer support and care.
www.lbbc.org/

Mautner Project of Whitman-Walker Health
Offers online and telephone support programs for lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals living with cancer, and their partners.
1-866-MAUTNER (1-866-628-8637)
https://www.whitman-walker.org/care-program/cancer-navigation

SHARE Cancer Support
Offers telephone support groups for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and women who have lymphedema.
1-844-ASK-SHARE (1-844-275-7427)
www.sharecancersupport.org/

Young Survival Coalition
Provides support programs (online and telephone) for young women diagnosed with breast cancer, and a resource kit for young women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.
www.youngsurvival.org/

 

SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education as well as fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate.
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones. 
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information. 

 

Counseling (either one-on-one or in a group setting) can improve mental well-being and quality of life for people with metastatic breast cancer [21].

Learn more about social support for people with metastatic breast cancer.

The organizations below offer local, online and/or telephone social support for people with metastatic breast cancer. Some also offer support services for loved ones.

Advanced Breast Cancer Community
Offers online support groups for women with metastatic (stage IV, advanced) breast cancer as well as information on metastatic breast cancer.
www.advancedbreastcancercommunity.org/

American Cancer Society – Cancer Survivors Network
Offers online support for people with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones.
www.csn.cancer.org/

Association of Cancer Online Resources
Find an online support group.
www.acor.org/

Cancer Support Community (formerly Gilda’s Club Worldwide and The Wellness Community)
Offers support programs (in-person, online and telephone) for people with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones.
www.cancersupportcommunity.org/

CancerCare
Find an online support group.
www.cancercare.org/

CancerConnect
Find an online support group (for people with metastatic breast cancer and loved ones).
www.cancerconnect.com

Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Find information on breast cancer support and care.
www.lbbc.org/

Mautner Project of Whitman-Walker Health
Offers support programs (online and telephone) for lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals with cancer, and their partners.
https://www.whitman-walker.org/care-program/cancer-navigation

Men Against Breast Cancer
Offers online support programs for men who are caregivers.
www.menagainstbreastcancer.org/

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Find local hospice care.
www.nhpco.org/

Young Survival Coalition
Provides support programs (online and telephone) for young women.
www.youngsurvival.org/

Find a resource kit for young women with metastatic breast cancer.
www.youngsurvival.org/metastatic-navigator

 

SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education as well as fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones. 
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information. 

 

Social support for family and loved ones

As with any major illness, breast cancer can have far-reaching effects beyond the person who is diagnosed.

Spouses and partners, family members and other loved ones may feel many of the same emotions as the person diagnosed: shock, sadness, fear, anger and denial.

Family and friends can be strong sources of support throughout diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

At the same time, loved ones (especially spouses, partners and children) may also need social support.

Along with the many issues related to caring for a loved one with breast cancer come other difficult relationship issues of loss, need, control, sexuality and altered body image.

Social support (both formal and informal) can help you work through these issues.

Below are some organizations that offer support groups for spouses and partners.

4th Angel – Patient and Caregiver Mentoring Program
Offers telephone support programs for caregivers.
www.4thangel.org/

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD)
Offers support programs (online and telephone) for spouses and partners.
1-800-977-4121
https://https://www.abcdbreastcancersupport.org

Cancer Support Community (formerly Gilda’s Club Worldwide and The Wellness Community)
Offers support programs (in-person, online and telephone) for spouses and partners.
1-888-793-9355
www.cancersupportcommunity.org 

CancerConnect
Find an online support group.
www.cancerconnect.com

CaringBridge
Offers an online tool to coordinate support activities (such as preparing meals and giving rides to treatment).
www.caringbridge.org

Imerman Angels
Offers online support programs caregivers.
https://www.imermanangels.org/ 

Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Find information on breast cancer support and care.
www.lbbc.org/ 

Mautner Project of Whitman-Walker Health
Offers online and telephone support programs for the partners of lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals living with cancer.
1-866-MAUTNER (1-866-628-8637)
www.whitman-walker.org

Men Against Breast Cancer
Offers online support programs for men who are caregivers.
www.menagainstbreastcancer.org/

My Cancer Circle
Offers an online tool to coordinate support activities (such as preparing meals and giving rides to treatment).
https://mycancercircle.net 

Well Spouse Foundation
Offers support services to spouses and partners.
1-800-838-0879
www.wellspouse.org

SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education as well as fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate.
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones. 
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information. 

 

Children may have a strong emotional response to a parent’s breast cancer diagnosis.

Keep in mind children need to [22]:

  • Be told about the diagnosis in a way suited to their age and state of mind. If they aren’t told by an adult, children may fill in the gaps with their imagination.
  • Be involved in family discussions and decision-making related to a parent’s breast cancer.
  • Feel comfortable asking questions about breast cancer and sharing their emotions.
  • Be watched for signs of emotional distress, both at home and at school.

Some children may benefit from a support group for children who have a parent with cancer. To find a support group, call our breast care helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or contact your local cancer center.

Other organizations that may be helpful are listed below.

American Cancer Society
Find a series of guides to help children understand and deal with a cancer diagnosis in a parent.
www.cancer.org/treatment/children-and-cancer/when-a-family-member-has-cancer.html

Camp Kesem
Offers summer camps in many states for children with a parent who has or has had cancer.
www.campkesem.org/

Cancer Support Community
Find information on helping children understand and deal with a cancer diagnosis in a parent, including a guide with age-specific tips on talking with children about cancer.
www.cancersupportcommunity.org/blog/2016/08/talking-kids-about-cancer

SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education as well as fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate.
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones. 
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information. 

 

 

SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org
  • Our free, 6-week telephone support groups for men with breast cancer provide a safe place for men to discuss the challenges of breast cancer, get information and exchange support. To learn more, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org.
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education as well as fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate.
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones. 
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.