Her2+ breast cancer
People with a genetic mutation linked to cancer risk
Triple negative breast cancer
Women under 45
Women over 45
Does having a large social network help breast cancer survivors have better outcomes? Research from the current study found that socially isolated breast cancer survivors had an increased risk of recurrence and breast cancer-specific mortality. (3/16/17)
|At a glance||In-depth|
|Clinical trials||Resources and references|
|Questions for your doctor|
Whether social networks are associated with better survival after breast cancer.
If social networks are beneficial to a woman’s prognosis after breast cancer, researchers and health care providers can use this information to develop more effective social and clinical interventions to help survivors.
This study suggests that social networks may be beneficial for breast cancer survivors. While researchers and health care providers do not understand exactly how a large social network benefits prognosis and survival, survivors should make sure to reach out to family and friends if they need support and assistance. Additionally, they can reach out to health care providers or find support groups to talk to about their concerns.
The following clinical trials on cancer patient care are recruiting participants:
NCT02866994: Project Connect Online: An Internet-based Intervention for Women With Breast Cancer (PCO). This randomized comparative effectiveness trial examines the potential psychosocial and physical health-related benefits of sharing personal websites with other women with breast cancer, as well as with family and friends (PCO PLUS condition) versus sharing with family and friends only (PCO condition) in a sample of women with metastatic breast cancer.
Previous work found an association between better overall survival in cancer patients who had good support networks; however, improved breast cancer-specific mortality has not been studied.
Candyce Kroenke and her colleagues from Kaiser Permanente and other institutions published research in 2016 in the journal Cancer that studied the association between breast cancer-specific mortality and social networks.
Does a larger social network help breast cancer survivors have a better prognosis?
The 9,267 women in this study were part of the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project (ABCPP) and previously had invasive breast cancer (stage I-IV). The ABCPP included women from multiple United States locations and Shanghai, China.
The researchers measured women’s social networks within two years after their diagnosis, using the Berkman-Syme social network index. This index includes five components:
A higher number on the index meant that the women had greater social ties.
Depending on her score, each woman’s data was assigned to one of three groups:
The women were then followed for up to 21 years (the follow-up time for individuals ranged from about 1 to 21 years) to observe rates of recurrence, breast cancer-specific mortality and overall mortality.
This study did not include many women of lower socioeconomic status, who tend to have smaller social networks and poorer survival. So while not definitive, it is more likely that because of this limitation, the study underestimated the association between social networks and survival. Nor did this study include many African American or Hispanic women. Finally, the study authors acknowledged that having later stage disease, such as metastatic breast cancer, could be a factor in determining social network size.
This study suggests that not having a large social network is associated with poorer outcomes after breast cancer, though more work needs to be done to understand why. Women who have had breast cancer should reach out to their family, friends, health care providers, and other support groups if they need support or assistance.
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