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Social Support, Development of Cancer, and Cancer Survival

Epidemiology researchers in one study exploring the effects of social support on cancer survival, interviewed 244 breast cancer patients. The patients were asked how many people they confided in during the three months post surgery. Then they were followed for several years. The seven-year survival rate for the patients who had not confided with anyone during that three-month post surgery period was 56 percent. The survival rate for those who had confided in one person was 66 percent. Those who had confided in two or more people had a 76 percent survival rate.

Maunsell E, Brisson J, and Deschenes L.  Social support and survival among women with breast cancer. Cancer, 1995;76:631-637.

In another study of 514 women, 239 were diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the results of this study was that those with the least social support were nine times as likely to develop cancer following a stressful life event. In fact, most psychooncology studies have found a positive correlation between survival time after cancer diagnosis and the amount and quality of social support.

Price M, Tennant C, and Butow P.  The role of psychosocial factors in the development of breast carcinoma: Part II: Life event stressors, social support, defense style, and emotional control and their interactions. Cancer, 2001;91(4):686-697.

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Social Support, Development of Cancer, and Cancer Survival

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Berkelhammer is a retired mind-body medicine psychologist. He writes about mindfulness-based practices with a unique emphasis on optimization of wellbeing and health. Dr. Berkelhammer also lectures at San Francisco State University and UC San Francisco, and is currently teaching a class in Marin County through College of Marin. He is the author of the book "In Your Own Hands; New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions".

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In Your Own Hands: Mindfulness-Based Practices to Optimize Wellbeing - College of Marin Community Education

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APA Reference
Berkelhammer, D. (2016). Social Support, Development of Cancer, and Cancer Survival. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 May 2016
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