Peer support interventions for breast cancer patients: a systematic review

  • Jieman Hu
  • Xue Wang
  • Shaoning Guo
  • Fangfang Chen
  • Yuan-yu Wu
  • Fu-jian Ji
  • Xuedong FangEmail author



Due to the clear efficacy of peer support as a means of improving emotional well-being and healthy behaviors in a highly cost-effective manner, this program is widely used. Controversy remains, however, with regard to its efficacy in breast cancer patients. Given the heterogeneity of peer support interventions, this review aimed to categorize, assess, and synthesize the existing evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to clarify the effects of different types of peer support on breast cancer patients.


We searched Pubmed, EMBase, CENTRAL, CINAHL, PsychINFO, Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and Wanfang Data for English and Chinese language RCTs. The Cochrane Collaboration ‘risk of bias’ tool for systematic reviews was used to assess the methodological quality of each RCT.


Of the 1494 studies screened, 15 studies met eligibility criteria for inclusion, comprising 1695 breast cancer patients. Overall, there were more positive effects than invalid or negative effects across peer interventions, with notable exceptions: unmoderated and unstructured group peer support interventions as well as Internet-based models without peer training had no effect or adverse effects on proximal and distal outcomes. However, adding other peer roles to the peer support structure or using one-on-one models could significantly improve the patients’ negative emotions. Peer education showed promising effects on stress management, quality of life, and healthy behaviors.


This systematic review found that different types of peer support have different effects on outcomes for breast cancer patients. Web-based group peer support without peer training must be avoided or used with caution in the future. Peer education is recommended for breast cancer patient support models, given its excellent results and cost-effectiveness.


Peer support Breast cancer patients Depression Systematic literature review 



This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31771093).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no competing of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingJilin UniversityChangchunChina
  2. 2.Department of Gastrointestinal Colorectal and Anal SurgeryChina-Japan Union Hospital of Jilin UniversityChangchunChina
  3. 3.Department of AnesthesiologyThe First Hospital of Jilin UniversityChangchunChina

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