Support Groups for Mesothelioma
Nearly half of all patients with an advanced form of cancer like mesothelioma experience emotional distress like fear, anger, depression and anxiety. But patients with a strong social support network have a lower risk for developing these symptoms. An important component to developing and maintaining such a network is through participation in support groups.
Mesothelioma support groups are often arranged by local hospitals, therapists or cancer advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society and the American Psychological Oncological Society. Groups can be casual or structured, and they can meet in public places or over the telephone or internet. Some groups offer spiritual support, while others focus more on education and awareness.
The Mesothelioma Center also has a monthly support group for anyone who is affected by this cancer. Licensed mental health counselor Dana Nolan leads an education-based group discussion that also serves as a safe, judgement-free environment for sharing emotions and ideas. Even if all you want to do is listen to caregivers and the experiences of others, you can register to participate in the group.
Why Join a Support Group?
A study of patients with incurable cancers like mesothelioma found that those who participated in support groups to care for their emotional health lived three times longer than anticipated. The study, conducted by a scientist in Ontario, Canada, was reported in 2009 and modeled after a 1986 study by psychologist David Spiegel, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine.
In essence, support groups help patients find meaning in their personal journey, address their prognosis, strengthen their coping skills and improve their quality of life through non-pharmaceutical techniques like relaxation exercises and participating in community events and activities.
Support groups are not group therapy. Members of a support group are not being treated for a psychological disease. Instead, support groups are a form of emotional comfort. Medical attention is not given at a support group, but patients are free to share their experiences with treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Many group participants are happy to share personal advice and resources, but support groups are not a substitute for medical care. The American Psychological Association provides additional information on how support groups and other forms of emotional care can benefit cancer patients.
Mesothelioma support groups offer patients a judgment-free zone to share their worries and talk honestly about their lives. Participants may lead discussions about relationships, independence and finances in addition to conversations about medical side effects and fears about treatment. One study found that the sharing sessions offered by a cancer support group reduced depression and anxiety in participants while increasing the patients' knowledge of their illness. The study also found that the support group participants had stronger relationships with their caregivers.
Joining a mesothelioma support group is simple. Most groups allow participants to attend sessions as frequently or infrequently as they like, and many groups require little to no preparation on the patient's part. There is typically no obligation to come back if you feel uncomfortable or if the support group does not meet your needs. However, many support group members find that spending some time with other mesothelioma survivors and caregivers makes coping with the cancer much easier.
Finding the Right Mesothelioma Support Group
Did you Know?
Personal blogs are a type of online support similar to an online diary? Check out these mesothelioma blogs - they're written by patients and family members just like you!
Mesothelioma patients looking for a support group need to consider what they need to get from the experience before deciding to join. Some groups make emotional care their biggest priority, while others are centered on research. Mesothelioma support groups may be exclusively designed for current patients, or they may be open to survivors, patients and caregivers at the same time. Mesothelioma support groups can meet at a patient's house, cancer care centers or public locations such as a coffee shop or library. Virtual support groups are also conducted over the telephone or internet. Nearly every patient can find a support group that meets their own unique needs.
Patients will need to consider the dynamic of the group as well. Some groups incorporate spiritual counseling, yet many others are not affiliated with any religious group. Many groups are organized by non-profit organizations or cancer advocacy programs, such as the American Cancer Society. You can find more on our page of charities.
- You crave personal interaction and social experiences
- You have enough energy to get ready and travel to the meeting place
- You have reliable transportation to and from the meetings
- Your immune system (white blood cell count) is strong enough to support public meetings
- You own a phone with long-distance and/or multiple-way calling capabilities
- You have an unlimited or high usage plan for a landline or cellular phone
- You prefer to seek support from the comfort of your own home
- You can commit to a regularly scheduled telephone call (often on a once-per-week basis)
- You prefer to find support at home
- You want 24-hour access to support resources
- You have your own technology (including a computer, webcam, microphone, email address, etc) or can access the equipment at a caregiver's house or public library
- You prefer to seek support anonymously
- Interested in an in-person support group? Search through Cancer Care's directory of face-to-face support groups.
- Thinking about joining an online support group? Cancer Support Community offers chat room conversations, discussion boards and personalized websites for you to connect with your supporters.
- Considering a telephone-based support network? Your physician may be able to recommend a specific group to you, or you can call the Mesothelioma Center's Patient Advocates at (800) 615-2270 to be connected with other mesothelioma support networks in your area.