Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 331–338 | Cite as

Characteristics of professionally-led and peer-led cancer support groups in the United Kingdom

  • Clare Stevinson
  • Anne Lydon
  • Ziv Amir



Support group participation has various benefits for cancer survivors. This study explored the provision of support groups for cancer survivors in the United Kingdom (UK), and examined differences between professionally and peer-led groups.


Leaders of cancer support groups in the UK were invited to take part in a national postal survey. Questionnaires included sections for group structure information, and leader characteristics and training needs.


Survey response was 59.6% with a total of 315 participants. Of these, 227 (72.1%) were peer-leaders, and 88 (27.9%) health-professional leaders. Peer-led groups were more likely to be run by a committee (66.1% vs 27.3%; χ 2 = 38.6; p < 0.001) and provide additional activities (e.g., home visits, telephone support, social events) than professionally-led groups. There were no differences between professional and peer leaders in the number of years of support group leadership experience, and previous support group training. However, more professional leaders perceived a need for training than peer leaders (67.0% vs 48.0%; χ 2 = 9.2; p = 0.002), although the types of training desired were not different.


Support group provision was widespread and varied in nature. Few differences were observed between peer and professional groups. More professional leaders identified training needs than peer leaders, although types of training desired were similar.

Implications for cancer survivors

A wide range of support groups are available for cancer survivors in the UK. Peer-led groups are more common, and they are more likely to offer services in addition to regular meetings than professionally-led groups.


Neoplasm Social support Self-help group 



This study was funded by Macmillan Cancer Support. The North Manchester and Bury Myeloma Support Group assisted with questionnaire pre-testing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sport, Exercise and Health SciencesLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK
  2. 2.Macmillan Research Unit, School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social WorkUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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