ROANOKE (WSLS 10)-- October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and thanks to huge support and extensive research, there have been big improvements in screening, diagnosis and treatment.
However, more than 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease-- leaving many women unsure where to turn for support. That's why many facilities and hospitals offer up support groups for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing treatment or need some extra support after their treatment is complete.
Catherine Hagan, an advanced practice nurse with Carilion, has set up some support groups. She says many of the women come in with positive attitudes and are looking to talk to women who are facing a similar diagnosis or have been through treatment before.
"Every patient that we diagnose here gets an invitation to come," she says. "Not everyone comes, it's not everyone's cup of tea. But for those patients that do, they have found and reported that it is great to get information from people who have already walked the walk and can give pointers-- like, 'If you have this kind of therapy, this really helped me with that therapy.'"
Many of the women in these groups continue to attend after they're declared breast cancer free-- and work to help other women in similar positions that they were. Hagan says no one is allowed to tell someone else how they are going to feel, but can share their own experiences of how different treatments impacted them.
That's the kind of advice Tam Roop says she was looking for in the summer of 2015, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She turned to a support group to get more information on what to do next as she was beginning treatment.
"I'm not really a support group kind of person," says Tam. "But attending that made such a difference because the support group is full of not only breast cancer survivors, but people who have yet to have surgery. I learned so much. I got good, solid information and I think that information is key to your emotional comfort."
Tam says once she talked with cancer survivors and other women undergoing the same or similar treatments, she felt a lot more comfortable making decisions about her own treatment plan.