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:
- Stony Brook University Hospital's Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Education/Support Group meets the first Wednesday of each month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Holiday Inn Express, Stony Brook.
- Mather Hospital Cancer Survivors Support Group, which welcomes those who have been diagnosed with any form of cancer, meets the third Thursday every month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Conference Rooms 4 and 5.
- Mather Hospital "Newly Diagnosed" Breast Cancer Support Group welcomes women who have a recent diagnosis. Registration required for eight-week sessions (dates vary). Meetings are held on Thursdays from 5:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. in the O.R. Conference Room. For dates and registration, call 631-689-1854.
- Mather Hospital "Live, Love and Laugh Again" is a support group for women who have breast cancer. Family members are encouraged to attend. Registration is not required. Meets the fourth Tuesday of every month from 7-9 p.m. in the O.R. Conference Room at Mather Hospital. For information, call 631-476-2776.
- Mather Hospital "Look Good, Feel Better" is a complimentary two-hour makeover session for cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. Appointment required and dates vary. Classes are held from 6-8 p.m., Conference Room 1, Mather Hospital. For dates and appointments, call Mather Public affairs at 631-476-2723.
- "Reach to Recovery" is a program to help patients with breast cancer cope with their diagnosis, treatment and recovery. A breast cancer survivor is paired with a recently diagnosed patient. American Cancer Society volunteers are specially trained to help the patient express feelings and verbalize fears and concerns. Contact is made through a personal visit, online or through a phone call, based on location. Call the ACS 24-hour phone line at 800-227-2345.
- While it doesn't offer a group setting per se, Miller Place-based North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition does offer support to breast cancer patients including transportation, meals, house cleaning, child care, wigs and more.
“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?