Support Groups Help Your Brain
I love this study. I love my support groups, and this gives me another reason to encourage women to participate. A few minutes ago, I spoke with one of our nurses about a new patient of hers, midway through chemotherapy for breast cancer, who is interested in joining the group, but is afraid to do so. Of course I understand why women often are worried about coming to a group. The concerns generally cluster around not wanting to take on others' sorrows and not wanting to hear about new things to worry about. All legit. However, the truth is that a good group will not cause either of those things to happen. Yes, you will hear other women talk about their problems and fears, but the conversation happens in a very safe place, and the strong feelings of support and affection fill the air. When someone calls me to inquire about a group, I describe it this way: "We talk about all the hard things, but we laugh a lot." When it is obvious that the discussion is upsetting for others, part of my job is to jump in and make it better. Talking openly about our sadness or anxiety does not make things worse. Indeed, it almost always makes it better.
If you are not in the Boston area and, therefore, cannot attend one of my groups, I strongly encourage you to seek out one in your community. When you are looking, make sure you ask:
- Who facilitates the group? You want the group leader to be someone who is trained, professional, and experienced.
- Who comes to the group? Support groups are organized in many different ways. My own preference is to limit each group to women in a similar situation, so I have different groups for women who are going through adjuvant treatment, women who have finished treatment, and women who have metastatic/advanced disease.
Each experience has its own issues, and I think it is most helpful to be with others who share yours.
And coming to group may help with your brain! Here is the start of an article from Oncology Nurse Advisor and a link to read more:
Brief Group Support Intervention Associated with Longterm Cognitive Benefits in Patients with Breast Cancer
(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Participation in a fewer than 2 weeks of support group meetings is associated with long term cognitive function improvements in patients with breast cancer, according to a long-term follow-up analysis published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.
“Support intervention significantly improved cognitive function, body image, future perspective and fatigue, compared with the findings in the control group,” reported lead author Helena Granstam Björneklett, a doctoral student, of the Department of Oncology at Västmanland County Hospital in Västerås, Sweden, and coauthors.
Women with breast cancer frequently experience anxiety, depression and fatigue, impacting their health-related quality of life “for several years” after treatment, the authors reported.
If you are interested in reading the whole article, email me and I will forward it to you.