Is there an "ideal" cancer support group? Key findings from a qualitative study of three groups

Kirsten Bell, Joyce Lee, Sydney Foran, Sandy Kwong, John Christopherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this study was to study differently composed cancer support groups to generate insights into what groups are attractive to the widest range of participants, and how they might be best structured and composed. This study applied a qualitative design utilizing participant observation at three cancer support groups (a group for women with metastatic cancer, a colorectal cancer support group, and a group for Chinese cancer patients) and in-depth interviews (N = 23) with group members as the primary data collection methods. Despite the diverse composition of the groups, their perceived benefits were similar, and informants highlighted the information, acceptance, and understanding they received in the support group environment. However, gender and cultural differences were found in attendance patterns and the desired content of group meetings. Importantly, participants' motivations for attending cancer support groups also changed as they moved through the treatment trajectory: over time the need for information was at least partially replaced by a need for support and understanding. This study supports prior research findings that there is no ideal support group, nor is there a "magical formula" for attracting and retaining a diverse audience. However, including an educational component in support groups may increase the participation of currently underrepresented populations such as men and patients from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-49
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of psychosocial oncology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Canada
  • China
  • Colorectal Neoplasms
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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