Evaluation of a peer support program for women with breast cancer - Lessons for practitioners

Jeffrey Dunn, Suzanne K. Steginga, Stefano Occhipinti, Keithia Wilson

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


The present study aimed to describe how a volunteer peer support service assists women with breast cancer, and provides guidelines for practitioners in the development and implementation of such programmes. A two-phase evaluation of a breast cancer peer support program was undertaken to describe important attributes of the peer support intervention, the impact of the volunteer visit on women's self-reports of anxiety, and key indicators of a successful volunteer visit. Phase 1 included focus groups with 57 women previously treated for breast cancer. Phase 2 included a survey of 245 women also treated previously for breast cancer and visited by a Breast Cancer Support Volunteer. The key aspect of the peer support process was the bond of common experience leading to a decrease in social isolation, an increase in optimism about the future and reassurance about personal reactions and femininity. It is recommended that peer support programmes should aim to time support visits to coincide with the time when patient support needs are highest, that volunteers need to be recruited from a range of backgrounds and matched to patients most similar to them in way of life, and that peer support services should be embedded in a broad network of community support services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1999


  • Breast cancer
  • Peer support
  • Social comparison
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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