[Editor's note: This article was updated on Oct. 22 to include information on St. Vincent's Medical Center Breast Cancer Support Group.]
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.
- St. Vincent's Medical Center Support Group at the Elizabeth M. Pfriem SWIM Center for Cancer Care meets the first and third Tuesday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Supper is served and all are welcome. Parking is free. For directions to the Center for Cancer Care, click here.
- Ann's Place on 80 Saw Mill Rd. in Danbury offers a variety of support groups for different types of survivors, including breast cancer, prostate cancer and laryngectomies.
- Breast Cancer Network of Strength: Breast Cancer Network of Strength helps those affected by breast cancer, through peer support, empowerment and knowledge by striving to ensure that no one faces breast cancer alone. Speaking with breast cancer survivors at the support session provides patients with an outlet where they can come to terms with their own diagnosis, and hopefully cope with the emotional concerns that may arise. A support group is offered at the Manchester Hospital alternate Mondays from 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm.
- Breast Cancer Support Groups provided by Greenwich Hospital: Greenwich Hospital offers two breast cancer support groups for patients. The first is for newly diagnosed patients, while the other is for those in the post-treatment phase of breast cancer. Each group offers pertinent medical information and support to the participants and is facilitated by an experienced cancer counselor.
- Look Good... Feel Better: A free service which teaches cancer patients hands-on cosmetic techniques to help them cope with appearance-related side effects from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, provided by certified/trained cosmetologists
- Norma Pfriem Cancer Institute: The Fairfield branch of the Institute's Breast Care Center offers not only treatment for a diagnosis, but tons of support services. Those services include wig fittings, bra and prosthetic fittings, one-on-one education and counseling, several fitness classes, support groups, public events, and more.
- Reach to Recovery Program: The American Cancer Society's free Reach to Recovery program provides carefully selected, trained volunteers to offer support and current information to women (and men) at different phases of the breast cancer experience. Volunteers are breast cancer survivors. The service is offered through face-to-face visits or by telephone.
- Road to Recovery: The American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program provides free transportation to cancer patients for medical or treatment appointments related to their diagnosis. Cancer care includes: treatment, tests, medical procedures, follow-up appointments, etc.
“Support groups are really beneficial,” says Debra Somerrs Copit, MD, 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.
TELL US: Do you know of any breast cancer support groups in the community? How have they helped you?