Living With Cancer: Collateral Damage

“When I was invited to attend a prostate cancer group called ‘Us Too’ in my town, its members were meeting in a private room in our public library. About eight men, some accompanied by their wives, had great difficulty communicating their discomfort about urine leaks and diapers. They wanted to know what strategies my gynecological cancer group used to talk about sexual issues. To alleviate their daily problems, the participants needed professional help that I could not furnish.

“Sexual dysfunction and incontinence in prostate cancer survivors underscore a quandary that shadows oncology. As we all realize, procedures that prolong lives also impair them. Yet cancer patients who must forfeit quality of life to gain quantity of life rarely receive adequate warning before treatment or guidance afterward.”


Worse Anxiety/Depression Symptoms in Patients Adopting ‘Helper’ Role in Breast Cancer Internet Support Group

“In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Lepore et al found that patients assigned a helper role in a breast cancer Internet support group had worse anxiety/depression symptoms after completion of the intervention than those not assigned a helper role…

“In the study, 183 women diagnosed in the past 36 months with nonmetastatic breast cancer who reported elevated anxiety or depression were randomly assigned to a standard Internet support group condition (n = 95) or an enhanced prosocial condition (n = 88). Both conditions included professionally facilitated live 90-minute weekly chat sessions for 6 weeks and access to a discussion board…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Despite the successful manipulation of supportive behaviors, the [prosocial Internet support group] did not produce better mental health outcomes in distressed survivors of breast cancer relative to [a standard Internet support group]. The prosocial manipulation may have inadvertently constrained women from expressing their needs openly, and thus, they may not have had their needs fully met in the group.’ ”


Living With Cancer: Parting Gifts

Editor’s note: This piece from The New York Times was written by an ovarian cancer patient and explores the loss of a support group friend to cancer. 

“Being in a cancer support group eventually means losing a friend. On the first day of November, Leslie informed the six of us that she would not attend our next meeting: ‘I am so tired and I think all the tricks and treats are done.’

“A private person in her early 60s, Leslie had contacted me a year and a half earlier when she saw a notice in the local paper about my memoir, about dealing with ovarian cancer treatments. She could not bear to read it, but might we correspond?

“We did. And despite her qualms about support groups, when one started to coalesce she joined and relished the camaraderie of our twice-a-month lunches. She named us ‘The Ladies.’ ”