Social support and cancer care in Ireland. An exploration of the therapeutic value of cancer support groups, and of the perceived levels of satisfaction by cancer patients with medical and personal support networks
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This study examined psychosocial support and cancer care in Ireland, focusing on perceived levels of satisfaction with medical and personal support, and the therapeutic value of cancer support groups. It also examined the current profile of cancer support group attendee. Research was conducted via an anonymous Likert style questionnaire. Five cancer support groups, located in different parts of Ireland took part, with a total of 28 participants. The results regarding perceived medical support were divided, with participants citing difficulties in the areas of information, time and empathy. Overall personal support was reported as satisfactory, but participants reported difficulty in talking honestly about their illness with family and friends, and felt they must always be 'positive', while regularly concealing their 'had' times. Cancer support groups were cited as very beneficial and supportive. Reported benefits included feeling understood, being able to share experiences with others in the same situation, and feeling free to voice fears and feelings about their illness. Participants reported improved relationships with their personal network following group attendance. The support group helped with issues that family and friends could not. The most significant cited benefits of the group were increased empowerment and a sense of control. Being part of a support group helped participants come to terms with their cancer. Support group attendee profile was found to be predominantly female aged between 41 and 60, and married or living with a partner. This is not representative of the cancer population as a whole and indicates that there are many cancer patients who are not benefiting from this proven beneficial experience. It is therefore recommended that further research be conducted in the areas of support group formats and the needs of under-represented patient groups in order that a broader array of the cancer population may profit from them.