Harvard Perspectives on Prostate Disease

The value of support groups: A patient's story

In September 1993, the day after his radical prostatectomy, Stanley Klein* heard a knock on the door to his hospital room. The visitor, an activist and prostate cancer survivor himself, invited Klein to attend the first meeting of a new support group in Boston for men who were coping with the disease. Klein knew that talking with others facing similar challenges would help him, but still recovering from surgery, he demurred, at least temporarily.

Two months later, he attended a session of what would later become the Longwood Medical Area Prostate Cancer Support Group, one of the most successful organizations of its kind. Nine hospitals in four cities now foster the group, which meets monthly and, under Klein's leadership, often attracts up to 100 people, even in cold, dreary weather. In fact, Klein estimates that he's met with nearly 1,900 prostate cancer survivors over the years.

Readers of Perspectives know that the experts we interview often recommend that patients attend a support group. Yet Klein says that some men seem hesitant to do so. He believes that learning more about the advantages of support groups and the concerns participants share might help convince reluctant men that attending one will be worthwhile (see "Finding a local support group"). It will also help them make better-informed treatment decisions and allay their fears and concerns, he says. Here, he shares his story, explains the workings of his support group, and offers suggestions to men interested in launching their own successful support network.

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