A prospective and population-based inquiry on the use and acceptability of peer support for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer
Supportive Care in Cancer
Health and Wellness Institute
The degree to which peer support is used and accepted as a supportive care approach by women with breast cancer is unclear. We examine peer support use across three major modalities (i.e. support groups, online platforms, one-on-one) and identify enablers and barriers to peer support using the beliefs framework of the theory of planned behaviour. A population-based sample of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer (n = 3105) who were on average 54.08 weeks since diagnosis completed mailed surveys at baseline measuring beliefs about peer support and intention. Peer support use was measured via telephone interview at baseline and prospectively at 12-month follow-up (n = 2780). In all, 37% of women had used at least one peer support service since diagnosis (support group = 20%, online = 18%, one-on-one = 10%). A path analysis examined what beliefs enabled or acted as barriers to peer support use at follow-up adjusting for past behaviour (i.e. baseline use), sociodemographic characteristics, and treatment. In order of relative strength, enablers included beliefs that peer support is an outlet for honest expression of feelings (β = .35), a source of empathy (β = .30), approved by doctors (β = .07), and approved by family/partner (β = .04). Barriers were beliefs that it encourages dwelling about breast cancer (β = - .06) and involves exposure to negative stories about this disease (β = - .04). Strategies which communicate the potential emotional support benefits of a shared illness experience and social approval by others, particularly the medical profession, may help to promote acceptance of peer support and encourage service uptake in breast cancer.