PHILADELPHIA--The burgeoning support group movement has much to offer patients with prostate cancer. Professionals who wish to refer patients to a support group, or to start their own group, should be aware of the several types of groups that exist and what each can offer, said speakers at the American Cancer Society's National Conference on Prostate Cancer.
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the effectiveness of support groups in improving the quality of life in patients with cancer, said Alice R. Kules, MSW, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "There are many different types, and all are effective in their own way."
When Dotti Calabrese, RN, began a support group for patients with cancer at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, she learned that "the stereotypical presumptions of men in our society are changing. No longer do men feel that they have to be stoic, that they shouldn't discuss their feelings or fears." Instead, these frank discussions are viewed as a healthy response to stress.
Four Support Group Models
Ms. Kules described four of the major models for cancer support groups. Cognitive-behavioral groups teach skills such as behavioral modification, relaxation techniques, focused deep breathing, visualization, and biofeedback, to relieve such problems as pain, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety.
In addition, cognitive techniques are taught to help patients cope with problems more effectively and develop a positive attitude and a sense of empowerment. These groups are professionally led, with patients contributing their own feedback to help other group members.
Psychotherapeutic support groups are closed-membership groups of limited duration, ranging from 8 to 12 weekly sessions to as long as a year, Ms. Kules said. These groups offer in-depth exploration of patients' emotional response to their cancer, an approach that is not appropriate for all.