Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 1 (January/February 1999), Pages 1-71

Evaluation of a peer support program for women with breast cancer—lessons for practitioners (pages 13-22)

Abstract

The present study aimed to describe how a volunteer peer support service assists women with breast cancer, and provides guidelines for practitioners in the development and implementation of such programmes. A two‐phase evaluation of a breast cancer peer support program was undertaken to describe important attributes of the peer support intervention, the impact of the volunteer visit on women's self‐reports of anxiety, and key indicators of a successful volunteer visit. Phase 1 included focus groups with 57 women previously treated for breast cancer. Phase 2 included a survey of 245 women also treated previously for breast cancer and visited by a Breast Cancer Support Volunteer. The key aspect of the peer support process was the bond of common experience leading to a decrease in social isolation, an increase in optimism about the future and reassurance about personal reactions and femininity. It is recommended that peer support programmes should aim to time support visits to coincide with the time when patient support needs are highest, that volunteers need to be recruited from a range of backgrounds and matched to patients most similar to them in way of life, and that peer support services should be embedded in a broad network of community support services. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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