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Telephone peer support for women with gynaecological cancer: benefits and challenges for supporters


Correspondence to: Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, England. E-mail:



Despite the prevalence of one-to-one peer support programmes for people with cancer, little research has examined its impact on the supporters themselves. This qualitative study examined a telephone-delivered one-to-one peer support intervention for women with gynaecological cancer, focussing on supporters' subjective experiences of benefits or costs to themselves and challenges arising in the support process.


Semi-structured interviews (N = 24) were conducted with 16 women who provided peer support for 24 patients. Transcripts were analysed thematically using the Framework approach.


Participants described significant personal benefits of providing support, including enhanced self-esteem and well-being, and gaining a new perspective and closure on their cancer experience. They experienced no adverse consequences, but several challenges arose, for example, finding a balance between emotional involvement and detachment, and supporting someone with a poor prognosis or high levels of negative emotion. Their accounts indicated resourcefulness in managing the challenges.


Providing peer support has a valuable role to play in cancer survivorship; it can facilitate the final stages of moving away from the role of patient and help to promote a more confident post-cancer sense of self. However, readiness to provide support and the availability of backup from health-care professionals appear essential. The findings have implications for the selection, training and supervision of peer supporters. Future studies should routinely measure outcomes for peer supporters. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.