Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 677–685 | Cite as

A prospective and population-based inquiry on the use and acceptability of peer support for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer

  • Melissa LeggEmail author
  • Melissa K. Hyde
  • Stefano Occhipinti
  • Philippa H. Youl
  • Jeff Dunn
  • Suzanne K. Chambers
Original Article


The degree to which peer support is used and accepted as a supportive care approach by women with breast cancer is unclear. We examine peer support use across three major modalities (i.e. support groups, online platforms, one-on-one) and identify enablers and barriers to peer support using the beliefs framework of the theory of planned behaviour. A population-based sample of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer (n = 3105) who were on average 54.08 weeks since diagnosis completed mailed surveys at baseline measuring beliefs about peer support and intention. Peer support use was measured via telephone interview at baseline and prospectively at 12-month follow-up (n = 2780). In all, 37% of women had used at least one peer support service since diagnosis (support group = 20%, online = 18%, one-on-one = 10%). A path analysis examined what beliefs enabled or acted as barriers to peer support use at follow-up adjusting for past behaviour (i.e. baseline use), sociodemographic characteristics, and treatment. In order of relative strength, enablers included beliefs that peer support is an outlet for honest expression of feelings (β = .35), a source of empathy (β = .30), approved by doctors (β = .07), and approved by family/partner (β = .04). Barriers were beliefs that it encourages dwelling about breast cancer (β = − .06) and involves exposure to negative stories about this disease (β = − .04). Strategies which communicate the potential emotional support benefits of a shared illness experience and social approval by others, particularly the medical profession, may help to promote acceptance of peer support and encourage service uptake in breast cancer.


Breast cancer Peer support Psychosocial care 



The authors wish to thank Carmen Connell and Carla Shield for research support.

Funding information

Data for this study was collected as part of a research project on breast cancer outcomes funded by Cancer Australia (grant number 1006339). Philippa Youl is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship (#1054038).

Compliance with ethical standards

The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review data if requested.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Menzies Health Institute QueenslandGriffith UniversitySouthportAustralia
  2. 2.Cancer Research CentreCancer Council QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Public Health and Social WorkQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.University of the Sunshine CoastSippy DownsAustralia
  5. 5.Institute for Resilient RegionsUniversity of Southern QueenslandSpringfieldAustralia
  6. 6.School of Social ScienceUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  7. 7.Prostate Cancer Foundation of AustraliaSydneyAustralia
  8. 8.Health and Wellness InstituteEdith Cowan UniversityPerthAustralia

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