Peer Support Groups Impact Older Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer of women worldwide.1 Metastatic breast cancer, or cancer which has spread beyond the breast to distant organs, is considered incurable, but due to advances in treatment, disease progression can be controlled.1 Side effects of life-prolonging treatments along with the effects of the cancer itself can cause a decreased quality of life.1 Metastatic breast cancer can also lead to emotional distress surrounding life and death with an estimated 32% to 52% of women with breast cancer experiencing significant psychological distress during their cancer journey.1,2 A systemic review found that women with metastatic breast cancer experience extreme fatigue, body limitations, existential distress, and vulnerability.1 Despite a need for support, patients with metastatic breast cancer frequently suffer from a lack of support and feel isolated.1 It has been demonstrated that social support has an impact on the well-being of patients with cancer , their physical and emotional health, and overall survival.3 Patients who lack social support experience an increased prevalence of cancer progression and lower overall survival.3 Older adults with cancer have unique psychosocial needs and compared to younger patients have more pre-existing chronic conditions, impaired cognitive and physical function along with a decreased physiologic reserve.3 The physical and emotional tolls of cancer treatment and vulnerability to toxicities make treatment more difficult.3 Older patients may also require assistance with activities of daily living and are more likely to experience a reduced quality of life, depressive symptoms, and anxiety.3 Additionally, they may have a reduced social support structure due to retirement and loss of a life partner.3

A study was conducted to explore the experiences of older women in Nigeria who had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Older women with metastatic breast cancer experience social isolation, poor access to care, and have poorer prognosis. They also experience different levels of death anxiety, pain, and stigma. The impact of belonging to a peer support group was investigated with 8 women ≥50 years of age using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The participants experienced physiological, psychological, and social challenges. Four central themes were identified: “I am not alone,” “I am the one that is going to die,” “tormented by pain,” and “winning the war against mBC.” Belonging to a peer support group was found to be valuable in bringing participants information, courage, hope, and self-worth.


Chidebe RC, Banwo-Fatai K, Agha AA, et al. “I am still alive”: An interpretive phenomenological analysis of older women living with metastatic breast cancer. Poster presented at: San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. December 6, 2023; San Antonio, TX. Abstract # PO2-05-10.


  1. Guité-Verret A, Vachon M. The incurable metastatic breast cancer experience through metaphors: the fight and the unveiling. Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2021;16:1971597.
  2. Lepore SJ, Rincon MA, Buzaglo JS, et al. Digital literacy linked to engagement and psychological benefits among breast cancer survivors in Internet-based peer support groups. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2019;28:e13134.
  3. Kadambi S, Soto-Perez-de-Celis E, Garg T, et al. Social support for older adults with cancer: Young International Society of Geriatric Oncology review paper. J Geriatr Oncol. 2020;11:217-224.

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