An evaluation of support groups for young women with early breast cancer

Helen Gunn, Bettina Meiser, Belinda Thewes and David Cairns

This study evaluated the efficacy of a support group for young women with a diagnosis of early breast cancer. Participants were 44 women ranging in age from 23 to 50 years (mean = 40 years) who attended a ten-session support group held at one of two metropolitan teaching hospitals. Participants completed a pre- and post-group evaluation package. Significant decreases in psychological distress at completion of the program were observed (t = 3.44, p = 0.001). Those with higher levels of distress at baseline reported significantly greater decreases in distress at the post-group assessment compared to women with lower levels of psychological distress. Overall no changes were found for social support (t = 0.77, p = 0.44), although women with low levels of social support at baseline showed significant increases in perceived social support at completion of the program compared to those with higher levels of social support. No changes were observed for self-esteem (t = -0.55, p = 0.58); however, those with lower self-esteem before the group commenced showed greater increases in self-esteem compared to those with higher levels at baseline. None of the sociodemographic variables examined (age, marital status and having children or not) predicted improvement from the support groups. The clinical implications of the findings are discussed.

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