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Peer-Based Models of Supportive Care: The Impact of Peer Support Groups in African American Breast Cancer Survivors

Kimlin T. Ashing-Giwa
Carolyn Tapp
Monica Rosales
Kommah McDowell
Virginia R. Martin
Rhonda Holbert Santifer
Phyllis Clark
Joy Steward
Leah Lewis
Eudora Mitchell
ONF 2012, 39(6), 585-591 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.585-591

purpose/Objectives: To examine the impact of support groups among African American breast cancer survivors (BCSs).

Research Approach: A qualitative research study.

Setting: Community health and cancer centers and churches.

Participants: 62 African American BCSs.

Methodologic Approach: Focus groups were conducted with African American BCSs to share their experiences with peer-based support groups. A brief questionnaire was administered and assessed demographics, medical history, and support group impact.

Findings: Survivors emphasized that a culturally embedded focus was essential for their participation in a cancer support group. The survivors underscored that cultural-based groups are rooted in the spiritual, linguistic, experiential, and historical contexts of the intended constituents. The peer-based support groups provided multilevel functions, including emotional, social, spiritual, informational, and financial support, as well as patient navigation. The groups' activities fostered personal development and a call to community advocacy that included prevention education and research engagement.

Conclusions: The unique strengths of grassroots community-based support groups are that they are culturally consonant, peer-based, and responsive to cancer-related and personal needs. The contribution and value of those multifaceted peer-based groups expand the paradigm of supportive care, extending the net of psychosocial care to underserved and underrepresented cancer survivors.

Interpretation: Research provides the critical foundation to lead and articulate the studies necessary to bridge peer- and professional-based care to ensure the psychosocial needs of increasingly diverse survivors are met.

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