Survivorship: Family/Co-Survivors


A breast cancer diagnosis can be confusing, overwhelming and scary. Make sure that you build and search for a support community to support you in your journey. The support of others who care about you and your well-being can give you the strength to cope and retain a sense of control during this challenging time.

At Komen, we believe anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer is a survivor, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. The National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Survivorship also defines breast cancer survivor in this way.

Getting the Support You Need

There are three main types of support: informational, emotional and practical. You may need different kinds of support at different times and from different people.

Informational Support provides you with information about breast cancer. This might include finding facts about your type of breast cancer or gathering information about your treatment options.

Emotional Support looks after your emotional well-being. Emotional supporters listen to you, give you the chance to express your feelings and just be there when you need a friend.

Practical Support helps you with specific tasks. This might include rides to appointments, help with cooking or cleaning or going to the doctor with you to take notes. It may also mean seeking out any short-term financial assistance available.

The Komen breast care helpline 1-877-GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) provides breast health and breast cancer information to anyone with questions or concerns about breast cancer.

Building your Support Community

Write down the names of people (co-survivors) who might support you in different ways. Your list may include your partner, children, other family members, friends, support group members, co-workers, clergy, neighbors or even health care providers. Look outside your existing network of support people, too. Have you met someone who has experienced breast cancer that you could reach out to?

Write down what kind of support you would like most from each person on your list. For instance, you may want your doctor to give you informational support, your best friend to give you practical support, your sister to give you emotional support, and your partner to give you all three types of support.

Tell each person exactly what he or she can do to help you and be specific. They can help with laundry, the bills, cleaning, etc. Sometimes all it takes is asking.

Have a “back-up” support person. Although it is true that you are the one who has breast cancer, the special people in your life have also been affected by your illness. Sometimes co-survivors will need to deal with their own feelings before they can support you.

Benefits of Co-Survivor Support

  • Reduced anxiety and psychological distress
  • Reduced depression and feelings of pain
  • Improved mood and/or self-image
  • Improved ability to cope
  • Improved feelings of control

Support groups are also an important resource for breast cancer survivors. They are designed to increase the support network of the people in the group.  Your doctor can also tell you how to find a local support group.

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