'Them' and 'us': the experiences of women with metastatic disease in mixed-stage versus stage-specific breast cancer support groups

Psychol Health. 2011 Jun;26(6):781-97. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2010.496853. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


The objective of this study was to explore the experiences of women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in mixed-stage and stage-specific groups. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to examine 15 interviews from eight women with MBC. The interviewees felt that their experiences were very much different from those of women with primary breast cancer (BC), because of their different prognoses. In mixed-stage groups, the interviewees described feeling silenced, marginalised and helpless. They did not receive support in these groups because survivors of primary BC are often afraid to face the idea of metastasis. In stage-specific MBC groups, on the other hand, women were able to talk openly and were understood by others with whom they identified. They became more informed about issues related to their illness. Seeing others living well despite MBC made them feel more hopeful. Although there are some disadvantages of participating in stage-specific groups, the findings suggest that, overall, stage-specific groups are more helpful to women with MBC than mixed-stage groups. These findings have implications for the provision of group support for this population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • United States