The role of informal and formal social support networks for patients with cancer

Jeffrey J. Guidry, Lu Ann Aday, Dong Zhang, Rodger J. Winn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: In this study, the authors examined the role of informal and formal social support networks in mitigating barriers to cancer treatment among whites, blacks, and Hispanics, based on a representative sample of cancer patients in Texas. DESCRIPTION OF STUDY: The sample for this study was obtained from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's Texas Community Oncology Network, a consortium of cancer treatment facilities in Texas. Of the 910 patients who were contacted, 593 (65%) responded to the survey. RESULTS: The results show the value of social support networks in assisting cancer patients with continuing treatment. An important finding indicated that health professionals do not provide information regarding social support groups to patients with cancer at the time of diagnosis. Fewer than half of the respondents were asked whether they would be interested in joining a formal social support group. Individuals of all racial/ethnic groups reported that the formal support groups provided emotional assistance. Minorities were more apt to report that the formal support groups helped with continuing treatment. In addition, informal social support networks, such as extended families and civic clubs, were seen as more helpful for blacks and Hispanics as compared with whites. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The need for formal and informal networks is indicated by the results of this study, which show that networks, such as relationship with family, friends, and relatives, play an important role in assisting patients in coping with their cancer. These networks are part of the patient's total treatment experience and must be acknowledged by healthcare professionals. A large number of patients are not asked to join social support groups, suggesting a need for training healthcare professionals to provide information regarding the potential benefits of support groups for cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-246
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1997


  • Formal social support
  • Informal social support
  • Minorities
  • Support groups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Oncology


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