Getting the Support You Need.

What is Social Support?

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.

Susan G. Komen®‘s Breast Care Helpline:
1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)

Calls to our Breast Care Helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Our helpline provides free, professional support services to anyone who has questions or concerns about breast cancer, including people diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.

You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.

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 a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment [1].

However, breast cancer can strain relationships. Some people notice a withdrawal of emotional support from close friends and family members [2]. At a time when they are needed most, the people close to you may be less supportive than usual, even if they want to help. This can happen to anyone, for many reasons. Talk with those close to you and tell them what you need from them.

It’s important to seek support from others if you need it. Even when close relationships are not strained, other sources of support, such as support groups, can help.

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

Support groups and one-on-one therapy

Support groups can be an important resource for people with breast cancer. They help increase your support network.

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 some host support groups for people living with cancer.

Social support may be linked to improved quality of life, whether it’s from family and friends, a support group or one-on-one therapy [1,4-10].

Social support may be linked to reduced [5-7,9-10]:

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

Social support may be linked to improved [5-7,9-10]:

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

As women recover and adjust to life after breast cancer treatment, social support may be linked to [1,8]:

  • Improved physical well-being
  • Ability to perform daily tasks (if you were unable to do so during treatment)

 

Social support may be linked to improved quality of life for people diagnosed with breast cancer [1,4-10]. However, study findings on social support and survival are mixed [11-18].

Cohort studies suggest women with breast cancer who have more social support have better survival than those with less support [11-14]. Randomized controlled trials, however, suggest no survival benefit from support groups [15-18].

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’s a difference between these types 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, nurse, patient navigator and social worker) can offer information, hope and advice.

It can be hard to talk with health care providers. These can be unfamiliar and stressful situations. Some people may feel shy or rushed to ask questions. Some may not know what to ask or may not be familiar with medical terms. Sometimes, health care providers seem too busy to help.

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

  • Our “Talking with Your Doctor” fact sheet offers some tips to help you communicate better with your health care providers. 
  • Our “Questions to Ask the Doctor” resources have questions on many topics related to breast cancer to ask your health care providers. You can download, print and write on them at your next doctor’s appointment. Or, you can download, type and save it on your computer, tablet or phone during a telehealth visit using an app such as Adobe. Plenty of space and a notes section are provided to jot down answers to the questions.
  • Our Talking with Your Doctor page provides links to questions to ask your health care providers about certain breast cancer topics.

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

For some, dealing with breast cancer can lead to 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.

Joining a support group (in-person, online or telephone) that’s linked to a hospital or other health organization is a good way to be sure the information about breast cancer you get is correct.

The Komen Breast Care Helpline 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) can help you find local, online or telephone support programs.

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.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

The organizations below may also be helpful.

4th Angel Mentoring Program at the Cleveland Clinic
Offers one-on-one telephone support programs for women with breast cancer and caregivers.
1-866-520-3197
www.4thangel.ccf.org/

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

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

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)
Provides online and telephone support and a resource guide for individuals and caregivers affected by hereditary breast, ovarian and other cancers.
1-866-288-7475
www.facingourrisk.org/support

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

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

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

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

Whitman-Walker Health
Offers online and telephone support programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with cancer.
www.whitman-walker.org/care-program/cancer-navigation

Young Survival Coalition
Provides support programs (online and telephone) and resource guides for young women with breast cancer.
www.youngsurvival.org/ 

Counseling (either one-on-one or in a group setting) may improve mental well-being and quality of life for people with metastatic breast cancer [19].

Your oncologist, nurse or social worker may be able to help you find a counselor, local support group or an online support group. You can also call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email at helpline@komen.org for help finding a support group.

Find a list of resources to help you find a support group in your area.

Online and telephone support groups

Online and telephone support groups are similar to in-person groups. They provide a chance to share information, give and receive social support and gain a sense of empowerment.

These organizations may be helpful:

Metavivor
www.metavivor.org

MBC Alliance
www.mbcalliance.org/support

Find more organizations that offer online and telephone support.

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

Learn about care after treatment for the cancer ends, including hospice care and palliative care.

Learn what Komen is doing to help people with metastatic breast 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.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those living with metastatic breast cancer, and those who love them, can find support, friendship and information. Visit Facebook, search for Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer (Stage IV) Group and request to join the closed group.
  • Our free monthly MBC Impact Series provides people living with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones a safe, collaborative space to gather information related to MBC and discover practical resources to help make decisions for improved physical and emotional health. To learn more and register visit https://komen.org/mbcseries.
  • 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 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.

Taking care of yourself

Watching someone you love go through breast cancer treatment can be hard. You may hide feelings of anger, fear or helplessness because you don’t want to upset them.

Remember to take care of yourself during this time. Find someone to talk to about your feelings. Connecting with others who have a loved one with breast cancer can be a good source of encouragement and support.

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

Support resources

4th Angel Mentoring Program at the Cleveland Clinic
Offers one-on-one telephone support programs for women with breast cancer and caregivers.
1-866-520-3197
www.4thangel.ccf.org/

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD)
Offers support programs (online and telephone) for spouses and partners.
1-800-977-4121
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

Caregiver Action Network
Provides information, education and support to help cancer caregivers care for themselves and their family members.
www.caregiveraction.org

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

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)
Provides online and telephone support and a resource guide for individuals and caregivers affected by hereditary breast, ovarian and other cancers.
1-866-288-7475
www.facingourrisk.org/support

Family Caregiver Alliance
Provides information and services to family caregivers, including assessment, care planning, direct care skills, wellness programs, respite services and legal or financial consultation vouchers.
www.caregiver.org

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

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

My Cancer Circle
Offers an online tool to coordinate support activities, such as preparing meals and giving rides to treatment.
www.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.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

You may be worried about how to talk with your children about your breast cancer. There’s no right or wrong way to discuss your diagnosis with your children, but it’s important to tell them. Even small children can sense something is going on. If you don’t talk with them, children may fill in the gaps with their imagination and misinformation.

Let you children know there will be times when you are tired and times when you are sad.

You want to give your children information and support. Your children may have a strong emotional response to your breast cancer diagnosis. Find a quiet time to talk with them when you’re feeling in control of your emotions so you can give them the support they need and answer any questions they may have.

Keep in mind children need to [20-21]:

  • Be told about the diagnosis in a way that’s suited to their age and state of mind.
  • Be involved in family discussions about a parent’s breast cancer.
  • Feel comfortable asking questions about breast cancer
  • Share their emotions.
  • Be watched for signs of emotional distress.

Some children may benefit from a support group for children who have a parent with cancer. To find a support group, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email at helpline@komen.org. You can also contact your local cancer center.

Our “What’s Happening to Mom” booklet may also provide some useful tips.

Other organizations that may help 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.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • 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.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 09/29/21