Peer support programs are associated with the provision of emotional, informational, and appraisal support. The benefits of peer support for women with breast cancer include reduced social isolation, enhanced coping, and access to information.
The aim of this study was to conduct a pre- and post-program evaluation of a 7-week facilitated breast cancer peer support program in a cancer support house.
Women with primary breast cancer (n = 8) participated in pre- and post-program focus groups. The interviews were recorded and were transcribed verbatim by the researcher. The data were analyzed using content analysis. Eight themes were identified.
The key themes emerging from the pre and post programme focus groups included: The need for mutual identification; Post-treatment isolation; Help with moving on; The impact of hair loss; Consolidation of information; Enablement/empowerment; The importance of the cancer survivor; Mutual sharing.
It is essential that facilitated peer support programs are tailored to meet the support needs of women with breast cancer. There is a particular need to facilitate mutual sharing and support for hair loss within these programs.
Implications for Practice:
Implications for practice emerging from this study include the importance of pre- and post-program evaluations in identifying whether peer support programs meet the expectations of women with breast cancer, the need for peer/professional programs to support women with treatment-induced hair loss, the importance of including cancer survivors in support programs, and the need to allow more informal sharing to occur in facilitated peer support programs.