Needy or resilient? How women with breast cancer think about peer support

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title



John Wiley and Sons, Ltd

Place of Publication

United Kingdom


Health and Wellness Institute




Legg, M., Occhipinti, S., Youl, P., Dunn, J., & Chambers, S. K. (2017). Needy or resilient? How women with breast cancer think about peer support. Psycho‐Oncology, 26(12), 2307-2310.


Peer support is based on the premise that sharing mutual experience provides a unique and valuable form of psychosocial support. In this approach, the connection of shared personal experience provides insight into effective ways to cope, decreases social isolation, and promotes hope and optimism for the future.1 In cancer care, peer support first emerged most strongly in breast cancer; however, despite being available across multiple delivery formats (eg, support groups, online discussion forums, and one‐to‐one services),1 less than 12% of women facing breast cancer access such services.2 To date, research has not addressed how these services might be best presented to encourage uptake of peer support.

In this regard, social prototypes may have theoretical and practical utility for understanding how women with breast cancer view peer support. This construct originates from prototype matching,3 a theory of decision making that asserts a person decides to enter a social situation by comparing themselves to that prototype (ie, image of the typical person perceived to be found in that situation). Previous research has shown that perceptions of similarity with peers predicts the helpfulness of peer support programs for women with breast cancer.4 Describing common peer support prototypes after breast cancer and the extent to which women feel similar to these images may provide insight into factors that might encourage use of peer support.3 This could then be translated into how such services are presented to optimise uptake.5

Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to describe what peer support prototypes are reported by women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and to assess the extent to which women see themselves as similar to these images.



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