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Breast Cancer Support Groups

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here's a list of local breast cancer support groups.

One in 8 American women and 1 in 1,000 American men will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. It’s estimated that more than 2 million people are diagnosed with breast cancer and fight for their lives each year.

Breast cancer is difficult to face alone—for both patients and their loved ones. To help in the battle, there are a number of local resources and support groups in our area:

The Cancer Instutute of NJ (CINJ) in cooperation with Saint Peter's University Hospital holds a support group at 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month at CINJ, 195 Little Albany St., New Brunswick. One meeting each month is an open discussion and the second meeting focuses on a specific topic with a guest speaker. For more information, contact Deborah Leif at 732-235-7011.

In Monmouth County, Young Survival Coalition (YSC)  NNJ volunteers are co-leading a support group in Little Silver. The group meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 7pm at Adult Medical Oncology, located at 39 Sycamore Ave., Little Silver, on the 2nd floor. For more information, call Lauren Stone at 732-673-3797.

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center hosts monthly cancer support groups on the third Wednesday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m. and the third Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 201 Lyons Ave., Newark. Pre-registration is required. Call Tadaya at 973-926-7976.

Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville offers cancer support groups the last Monday of the month from 4 to 5 p.m. in the 3 South Annex Solarium. To register, contact Raylene Langish, RN, Oncology Nurse Educator, at 973-450-2332.

The Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston offers a number of support groups, free of charge, designed to address the needs of individuals with various forms of cancer at different stages of illness, including a unique Art Therapy group. Art Therapy engages patients in creative endeavors such as painting, drawing, and collage, as a means of understanding and coping with the many feelings they may be experiencing. For dates, times, and locations, call Donna Dandrilli, at 973-322-2171.

The Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas also offers Primary and Beyond Primary Breast Cancer support groups, as well as the Look Good...Feel Better program of the American Cancer Society. For additional program details as well as information about coping with the stress of cancer, call Angela McCabe at  973-322-2668.

The Joan Knechel Cancer Center at Hackettstown Regional Medical Center offers a breast cancer support group the first and third Mondays of each month from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Registration is required. For details, call Joan Runfola at 908-441-1503. The center also hosts the "Look Good... Feel Better" program, a free, national public program to help women undergoing cancer treatment learn beauty techniques to cope with the appearance-related side effects of treatment and regain a sense of self-confidence and control over their lives. For more information, for dates and times and to register, call 800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345). The program meets in the Joan Knechel Cancer Center.

The Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center hosts regular Breast Cancer Support Groups. For a location, schedule and to register, please call 973-971-6299. (Registration is not required.)

Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical holds Circle of Women, an eight-week breast cancer networking and support group. Discussions will include diagnosis, treatment stages and the impact of breast cancer to patients and family members. For a location, schedule and to register, call 908-522-6210.

Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, 95 Mount Kemble Avenue, Morristown, hosts a post-breast surgery program sponsored by American Cancer Society. The group is for women who are two weeks to 18 months post-breast surgery and includes educational discussions plus pool and land exercises. For a location, schedule and to register (required), call 1-800-227-2345.

St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville holds Women Helping Women: Tackling Cancer Together support group for women with breast or gynecological cancers. The group meets the third Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the first floor executive dining room. For information or to register contact Brandy Johnson at 973-625-6176 or email bjohnson@saintclares.org.

Zufall Health Center, 18 West Blackwell St., Dover, hosts a support group for Spanish speaking women affected by breast cancer every other Monday from 10:30 a.m. to noon. For more information or to register contact Claribel or Yamileth at 973-328-9100.

American Cancer Society, 7 Ridgedale Ave. Ste 103, Cedar Knolls, has a Reach to Recovery program that helps individuals cope with breast cancer through one-on-one peer support. The center, which is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., also offers wig services and the Look Good...Feel Better program. For more information, call 800-227-2345.

Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey, 3 Crossroads Drive, Bedminster, hosts an Advanced Breast Cancer Support Group for anyone who has metastatic breast cancer and a Return to Wellness program for women who are one month to two years post treatment. For more information and to register, contact Karen Larsen at 908-658-5400 or email klarsen@cancersupportcnj.org.

“Support groups are really beneficial,” says Debra Somerrs Copit, MD, Director of Breast Imaging at Albert Einstein Medical Center, and a member of the medical advisory board for Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

“When patients are told they’re sick, it can be an out of body experience and they aren’t taking in everything the doctor is saying. It can be helpful to have someone to turn to and learn from who has gone through the same thing,” says Copit, who is a breast cancer survivor herself.

Not only do groups offer emotional support, but being a part of a support group can actually help patients feel less depressed and can help to reduce physical pain, according to a 2001 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients who aren’t big fans of group settings but still want to reap the benefits can turn to technology. It’s hard to duplicate in-person support groups on the web, but the recently launched breast cancer specific social networking platform, MyBreastCancerTeam comes close.

The site and mobile app caters to breast cancer survivors, and women  who have been recently diagnosed. Users can find suggestions for doctors and find similar users based on location, diagnosis and age. Members also have access to peer-driven Q&A section where they can read and write posts.

While a web platform may be useful for some, Dr.Copit worries that online forums can sometimes trigger the spread of misinformation. She suggests that patients who can’t make it to an in-person support group try calling a phone line.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer has a confidential survivors’ helpline that connects patients with others of similar background, going through similar situation. Call (888) 753-LBBC (5222) for more information.

TELL US: Do you know of any breast cancer support groups in the community? How have they helped you?

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