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Breast Cancer Support Group Seeking Mentors

Survivors Offering Support is now affiliated with the Inova hospital system.

A volunteer network of women who have battled breast cancer is looking for mentors to match newly diagnosed women with breast cancer survivors.

Mentors with Survivors Offering Support (SOS) provide emotional and informational support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients through peer mentoring, partner support workshops and facilitation of “Jumpstart to Survivorship” programs. The program began in Maryland and has is now in Northern Virginia through the five hospitals in the Inova hospital system, said Inova Alexandria Hospital spokeswoman Allison Kenty.

“It’s another way for survivors to offer support for people who are going through breast cancer, and people can access this support regardless of whether they’re treated at one of our hospitals, and it’s free,” Kenty said.

SOS coordinator Pamela Crum said the program offers a way for survivors to give back to those in need.

“As all breast cancer survivors know, when you’re going through a breast cancer journey, it’s very helpful to have so to talk to who has had the same experience, someone who can share your emotions or give you practical tips,” Crum said. “It’s someone who’s walked a common path.”

The National Cancer Institute and the Institute of Medicine found in a recent report that such groups fill a gap of emotional support for these women, according to Inova. The report found that psychosocial interventions can reduce the psychiatric symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life as part of routine breast cancer care.

The “Jumpstart to Survivorship” program facilitates workshops for breast cancer patients who have just completed treatment, Crum said.

“It’s an important part of the transition, because they may feel anxious about not seeing a doctor frequently or the breast cancer returning, so the Jumpstart to Survivorship program involves going from treatment to wellness,” she said. That includes roundtable discussions with survivors, tips on follow-up care and lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise.

SOS services connect newly diagnosed patients with hand-picked and trained peer mentors. Surveys report that mentoring support often reduces patient anxiety and lessens fear of the unknown, according to Inova.

“In this season, it’s a good way for folks to give back and get a good start to the new year, giving back to the cancer patients,” Kenty said.

SOS was founded in 2004 by Denise O’Neill, a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. To learn more about the program, contact Crum at 703-698-2532 or at pamela.crum@inova.org.

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