Why Don’t Cancer Survivors Attend Cancer Support Groups in Toronto

Main Article Content

Tsorng-Yeh Lee
Beryl Pilkington
Grace Ho


Background: Cancer is the leading cause of death for both men and women in Canada. Professionally or nonprofessionally led support groups have been recognized as a significant source of psychosocial support for cancer survivors. However, the participation rate was low and reasons for leaving a support group were not explored fully.

Purpose: To explore the reasons why Chinese cancer survivors left or did not attend a cancer support group in Toronto.

Methods: In-depth individual qualitative interviews were conducted. Five Chinese cancer survivors participated in in-depth interviews. Colaizzi’s phenomenological method was used to analyze the interview data.

Results: Four themes were extracted from the in-depth interviews: “not fit in”, “not satisfied with the information provided”, “tried to be a normal person”, and “lack reliable transportation and convenient scheduling”.

Conclusion: Cancer support groups can improve cancer survivors’ physical and psychosocial outcomes. The services can also help cancer survivors to obtain health related information and connect with professionals and peers. In recognizing the reasons why cancer survivors left support groups, health-care providers need to evaluate and be aware of the needs and difficulties for cancer survivors to attend support groups. They should match cancer survivors with appropriate groups. More language-friendly groups need to be launched, so cancer patients can easily find a suitable one from their neighborhood. 

Cancer, cancer support group, Chinese, qualitative study, attendance.

Article Details

How to Cite
Lee, T.-Y., Pilkington, B., & Ho, G. (2019). Why Don’t Cancer Survivors Attend Cancer Support Groups in Toronto. Journal of Scientific Research and Reports, 24(2), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.9734/jsrr/2019/v24i230151
Original Research Article


Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2018. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2018.
(Accessed 07.27.2018)

Huber J, Muck T, Maatz P, Keck B, Enders P, Maatouk I, Ihrig A. Face-to-face vs. online peer support groups for prostate cancer: A cross-sectional comparison study. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. 2018;12(1):1-9.
DOI: 10.1007/s11764-017-0633-0

Ussher J, Kirsten L, Butow P, Sandoval M. A qualitative analysis of reasons for leaving, or not attending, a cancer support group. Social Work in Health Care. 2008; 47(1):14-29.

Prioli KM, Pizzi LT, Kash KM, Newberg AB, Morlino AM, Matthews MJ, Monti DA. Costs and Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy versus Standard Breast Cancer Support Group for Women with Cancer. American Health & Drug Benefits. 2017;10(6):288-294.

Algtewi E, Owens J, Baker S, Baker SR. Online support groups for head and neck cancer and health-related quality of life. Quality of Life Research. 2017;26(9): 2351-2362.
DOI: 10.1007/s11136-017-1575-8

Shin S, Park H. Effect of empowerment on the quality of life of the survivors of breast cancer: The moderating effect of self-help group participation. Japan Journal of Nursing Science. 2017;14(4):311-319.
DOI: 10.1111/jjns.12161

Mahendran R, Lim HA, Tan JS, Hui Ying N, Chua J, Siew Eng L, Kua EH. Evaluation of a brief pilot psychoeducational support group intervention for family caregivers of cancer patients: A quasi-experimental mixed-methods study. Health & Quality of Life Outcomes. 2017;151-8.
DOI: 10.1186/s12955-017-0595-y

Finding support groups (July 28, 2018). Canadian Cancer Society.

Myungsun Y, Young Mi R, Eunkyung H. The experience of self-help group activities among women with breast cancer in Korea. Korean Journal of Adult Nursing. 2014; 26(4):466-478.
DOI: 10.7475/kjan.2014.26.4.466

Oliffe JL, Mróz LW, Bottorff JL, Braybrook DE, Ward A, Goldenberg LS, Goldenberg SL. Heterosexual couples and prostate cancer support groups: A gender relations analysis. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2015; 23(4):1127-1133.
DOI: 10.1007/s00520-014-2562-z

Björneklett HG, Rosenblad A, Lindemalm C, Ojutkangas M, Letocha H, Strang P, Bergkvist L. A randomized controlled trial of support group intervention after breast cancer treatment: Results on sick leave, health care utilization and health economy. Acta Oncologica. 2013;52(1): 38-47.
DOI: 10.3109/0284186X.2012.734921

Bily L. Creative therapeutic activities and support groups benefit all those involved in cancer care. American Health & Drug Benefits. 2017;10(6):295.

Trapp S, Woods J, Grove A, Stern M, Trapp SK, Woods JD, Stern M. Male coping processes as demonstrated in the context of a cancer-related social support group. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2013; 21(2):619-627.
DOI: 10.1007/s00520-012-1565-x

Sherman A, Pennington J, Simonton S, Latif U, Arent L, Farley H. Determinants of participation in cancer support groups: The role of health beliefs. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2008;15(2):92- 100.

Leng J, Lee T, Sarpel U, Lau J, Li Y, Cheng C, Gany. Identifying the informational and psychosocial needs of Chinese immigrant cancer patients: A focus group study. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2012;20(12): 3221–3229.

Kwok C, Ho M. Development and evaluation of a culturally sensitive support group programme for Chinese-Australian women with breast cancer: A pilot study. European Journal of Cancer Care. 2011; 20(6):795-802.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2354.2011.01266.x

Colaizzi P. Psychological research as a phenomenologist views it. In R. S. Valle & M. King (Eds.), Existential phenomenological alternatives for psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. 1978;48-71