Peer support can help those diagnosed with cancer through treatment, remission, and beyond.
Experts predict that more than two million people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2024, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). With an increase in rates for certain cancers, the ACS reports, people diagnosed with the disease could benefit from talking to someone who knows what they’re going through now more than ever.
With a cancer diagnosis often comes months of treatment, side effects, and, for some, an impact on mental health, according to the ACS. But experts suggest that support from someone with a similar experience to yours can be helpful when you're trying to cope with the disease.
“When patients undergoing treatment for cancer have the opportunity to meet peers in similar situations, they can open up to those who will truly understand them, receive and give guidance, and motivate one another to persevere,” says Yael Zack, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist at White Plains Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care. “This is deeply powerful.”
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’re in remission, we’ve gathered some resources to help you connect with someone who shares your experience and get the support you need.
Cancer Hope Network
Cancer Hope Network provides a one-on-one peer support service for people with cancer and their caregivers. Through this program, nearly 500 trained mentors volunteer to pair up with someone who needs a compassionate listener and supporter. You can request a match through their website for free, and they’ll connect you with a peer.
Not only does this organization provide peer matching, but they also offer community, educational, and financial resources on their site. You can participate in events like their annual CHN Golf Classic or their Chrysalis Masquerade Ball, which raises money to expand their support system.
Friend for Life
Friend for Life aims to help you navigate cancer by pairing you with a survivor who has a similar experience to your own. These volunteers are trained to help you through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. You can fill out an online questionnaire to get the process started, and Friend for Life will match you with a volunteer who understands your situation.
Friend for Life hosts an annual fundraiser, An Evening With Friends, to support their peer program. They also offer a newsletter featuring the latest in cancer news, tips for living with cancer, and inspiring stories.
Imerman Angels connects people with cancer and caregivers who are seeking support with one of their “Mentor Angels” — survivors and caregivers with a similar history. Once you’ve filled out their online questionnaire, you’ll get paired with someone trained to offer you comfort and empathy through your cancer experience. You can also register to become a mentor yourself.
The organization’s annual Brunch Run, which takes place in Chicago, raises money to fund all their cancer support systems, including their library of educational resources and webinars.
Malecare offers a wide range of peer support groups for those diagnosed with prostate cancer. These in-person and digital groups are designed to make men with this disease feel comfortable, heard, and helped. Depending on your circumstance, you can choose to join their Advanced Stage Prostate Cancer, Early Stage Prostate Cancer, or Gay Men’s Prostate Cancer group.
Malecare can also help you find clinical trials to participate in around the country, and their free mobile app, Cancergraph, can help you track your symptoms and side effects as you go through treatment.
SHARE Cancer Support
SHARE Cancer Support works to help women with breast, metastatic breast, ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancer learn about their diagnosis and find support in their community. They offer virtual peer support groups for each cancer type, as well as for caregivers. You can call their National Helpline at 844-ASK-SHARE if you have questions, or if you just need to talk to someone about your cancer experience.
Beyond peer support, SHARE provides free virtual cancer workshops where you can learn more about your disease, get a chance to move your body, or simply chat with the other women attending.
Young Adult Survivors United (YASU)
Young adults (YAs) diagnosed with cancer can often experience a lack of emotional care. Young Adult Survivors United (YASU) attempts to fill that gap and help enhance quality of life for YAs during cancer treatment and recovery. YASU provides nationwide, virtual support groups, in which young survivors can talk about their diagnosis and lean on one another in a safe space. They also offer in-person socials in the Pittsburgh area, where you can share a meal or just hang out with people who understand you.
YASU has free respite trips if you’re in need of a break, which you can go on with a loved one or on your own, but if a group-hang is more your style, their annual Young Adult Cancer Camp — where you’ll get a chance to meet other YAs with cancer, and participate in creative and physical activities — may fit the bill. YASU also has several fundraising events throughout the year, and provides financial assistance for young people with cancer.
4th Angel Mentoring Program
The 4th Angel Mentoring Program, sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic, is a free national program providing personalized peer support for people with cancer. Through this program, you can connect and speak one-on-one with a volunteer mentor by phone, through email, or via online chat. These mentors have firsthand experience with cancer, and are trained to answer tough questions and share positive strategies for coping.