Breast Cancer Survivor Advocacy at a University Hospital: Development of a Peer Support Program with Evaluation by Patients, Advocates, and Clinicians

J Cancer Educ. 2017 Mar;32(1):97-104. doi: 10.1007/s13187-015-0932-y.


Peer-to-peer support programs provide unique psychosocial and educational support for breast cancer patients. A Patient Survivor Advocacy (PSA) program was developed by the University of Wisconsin Breast Center (UWBC) to provide support for newly diagnosed patients from peers who had completed primary treatment. In this study, we evaluated patient, advocate, and clinician experience with the PSA program. A program matching volunteer peer advocates at least 1 year removed from primary treatment with newly diagnosed patients was developed. Peer advocates were recruited from the practices of UWBC clinicians and received in-person training on six dimensions of peer advocacy. Trained advocates were then paired based on demographic and medical history with new patients referred to the program. Survey assessment tools were distributed to assess peer advocate and patient satisfaction, as well as clinician experience. Forty patients have been matched with seven advocates, with contact largely by email (53 %) or phone (36 %). Patients and peer advocates reported satisfaction with the program. The majority of patients (92.9 %) reported that the program was "helpful" and that they would recommend the PSA program to another woman with breast cancer. All peer advocates (100 %) responded with a sense of achievement in their advocate roles. Clinicians noted challenges in referral to the program. Peer advocates can provide key emotional and psychosocial support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. The peer advocate, patient, and clinician feedback collected in this study will inform the future development of this program at our and peer institutions.

Keywords: Advocacy; Cancer survivorship; Peer-to-peer.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Advocacy*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Peer Group*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Volunteers*