The Importance of Participation in Support Groups for Women With Ovarian Cancer

Karin M. Ahlberg

Annelie Nordner

ONF 2006, 33(4), E53-E61. DOI: 10.1188/06.ONF.E53-E61

Purpose/Objectives: To explore the experience of participation in support groups for women recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Research Approach: Exploratory, qualitative.

Setting: Oncology department in a hospital in western Sweden.

Participants: 10 Swedish women, aged 42-76, who recently had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had participated in support groups.

Methodologic Approach: Data were collected by semistructured interviews and analyzed using grounded theory.

Main Research Variables: Ovarian cancer, support group experience.

Findings: Three categories emerged from the data analysis: sharing experiences and emotions, exchanging informational support, and exchanging emotional support. The core category was the experience of being in the same boat. Trust, openness, and willingness to create space for each other were experienced.

Conclusions: Support groups offer an opportunity to share experiences and emotions as well as exchange information. They are also a possible source of emotional support and therefore can contribute to quality of life of patients with ovarian cancer.

Interpretation: Knowing that others had similar symptoms and reactions, and that those experiences are normal, was very important for support group participants. Nurses can reduce patients' fears and uncertainties by confirming normality. Oncology nurses need to be aware that cancer support groups offer a unique opportunity to interact with others in a similar situation. Participation in support groups can be an important source of emotional and informational support for patients. The support program in this study may be used as a model when planning for extended emotional and informational support.

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