The Impact of Social Support on Cancer

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The Impact of Social Support on Cancer
Research has shown that individuals who suffer from cancer fare better if they have a network of social support surrounding them. Social support may manifest itself by allowing cancer patients to personalize with their illness, express their emotions and receive supportive interactions. As a result, they may develop more effective and active coping skills.

Bloom, Stewart, Johnston, Banks, and Fobair (2001) conducted a study which assessed the role of support in the physical and mental well-being of young women with breast cancer. Results indicated that emotional support played a significant role in protecting the patient from the negative effects of stress and, as such, improved their physical and mental state of well-being. It can be interpreted that individuals who suffer from a life-threatening illness increase their chances of survival by having access to social resources.

There are many factors which may come into play when assessing the role of social support in generating greater longevity. From Bloom et al.’s study it was shown that a patient’s state of well-being was improved through the presence of a social network. It can be deduced that a social group could lead a patient to adopt more assertive coping mechanisms, be more open to and have more access to the available medical information, and as a result, feel more secure in their ability to make better medical decisions. Setting up this frame of mind could result in the patient implementing positive changes in their health, for instance, by being increasingly aware of their diet.

Low social support on the other hand, could hamper a cancer patient’s rate of survival by favouring the development of maladaptive responses to the illness. Grassi and Rosti (1996) examined the role of psychosocial variables in fostering abnormal illness behaviour. Results showed that both psychological symptoms and personality characteristics were significantly...
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