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:
Saint Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson holds a support group in Spanish for women with breast cancer the first and fourth Wednesdays of the month from 5 to 6 p.m. in room 6114A in the Seton building. To register or for more information, contact Victoria Pacheco at 973-616-0514.
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center hosts monthly cancer support groups on the third Wednesday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m. and the third Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 201 Lyons Ave., Newark. Pre-registration is required. Call Tadaya at 973-926-7976.
Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville offers cancer support groups the last Monday of the month from 4 to 5 p.m. in the 3 South Annex Solarium. To register, contact Raylene Langish, RN, Oncology Nurse Educator, at 973-450-2332.
The Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston offers a number of support groups, free of charge, designed to address the needs of individuals with various forms of cancer at different stages of illness, including a unique Art Therapy group. Art Therapy engages patients in creative endeavors such as painting, drawing, and collage, as a means of understanding and coping with the many feelings they may be experiencing. For dates, times, and locations, call Donna Dandrilli, at 973-322-2171.
The Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas also offers Primary and Beyond Primary Breast Cancer support groups, as well as the Look Good...Feel Better program of the American Cancer Society. For additional program details as well as information about coping with the stress of cancer, call Angela McCabe at 973-322-2668.
Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical holds Circle of Women, an eight-week breast cancer networking and support group. Discussions will include diagnosis, treatment stages and the impact of breast cancer to patients and family members. For a location, schedule and to register, call 908-522-6210.
Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, 95 Mount Kemble Avenue, Morristown, hosts a post-breast surgery program sponsored by American Cancer Society. The group is for women who are two weeks to 18 months post-breast surgery and includes educational discussions plus pool and land exercises. For a location, schedule and to register (required), call 1-800-227-2345.
“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?