Pilot study seeks emotional support for young women



kristen thompson/metro vancouver


Researcher and counsellor Dr. Joanne Stephen, left, with breast-cancer survivor Denise Graham at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Vancouver yesterday.


The B.C. Cancer Agency is launching a new pilot study, the first of its kind in Canada, to test the value of online emotional support for young women recovering from breast cancer.

Dr. Joanne Stephen, a counsellor with the B.C. Cancer Agency and leader of the study, said existing support groups are often limited to urban centres.

A virtual community would allow women to connect with peers and counsellors regardless of where they live.

“There’s a lot of emotional connection that can happen online,” she said. “It’s intimate, and people are often more open.”

She added that because breast cancer is rare in young women — only 22 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are under 50 — survivors in that demographic often feel isolated.

In the 10-week Internet skills and support group, women would log on in groups with a counsellor to discuss coping skills and share their experiences.

Denise Graham was 34 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said young women face issues unique to their counterparts, such as premature menopause, infertility and financial pressures.

“We’re not ready to slow down,” she said. “Older women have the option.”

She said an online forum for discussion and support would also make it easier to find information specific to this particular group of cancer victims.