Setting up and managing a cancer support group

Interested in setting up a cancer support group or want help with the ongoing delivery of a current group?

There are several excellent resources that can help - please see the list at the end of this page.

Putting a plan together before starting a group is a good practice.

There are a number of things to consider, including:

  • What groups are already available in the area?
  • Who the group is for? (type of cancer, stage of cancer, carers etc)
  • Is there a suitable venue? (a private address is not a suitable place for a support group)
  • Who will assist you? (running a group is a big task ) 
  • How long will the group run for? (maybe 6 months to start and then reassess so you don’t over commit) 
  • How will you advertise the group?

One important thing to remember

If you are thinking of setting up a new cancer support group remember the importance of your own self-care. A recent diagnosis or bereavement can be time when people often want to help others and this is very kind and commendable. However it is of most benefit to yourself and prospective group members that as a group leader you are in the best positon to help others. Group members will be looking to you for support and assistance, the group focus will be on the member’s needs.

Perhaps it can be thought of in some way as similar to aircraft safety where we are advised to take the drop down oxygen mask for ourselves before assisting others. The rules of first aid are also similar where the first rule is to make sure your safe before you assist others.

Whilst there is no set timeframe that applies to everyone in terms of being in a place where you are ready to assist others, two years can be an indicative time where people are feeling more comfortable with any life adjustments.

Support Group Facilitator training

To set up and run a successful support group, and for Cancer Council to support your group fully, we encourage all prospective group leaders to undertake our two day Support Group Facilitator training. This training is called Keeping Things on Track.

Workshop topics include

  • Role of facilitator and co-facilitator
  • Type, structure and format of groups
  • Group agreement
  • Interviewing potential members
  • Dealing with members who dominate, or are angry or silent
  • Cancer progression and death
  • Controversial discussion in groups

If you would  like some support yourself, you can call our cancer nurses on 131120 to get information about our services and programs. Find out more about our Cancer Council 131120 service.

There are other ways to help people affected by cancer that don’t involve direct supportive care. Find out more about volunteering with Cancer Council Western Australia.

If you live in a regional or outer metropolitan area connecting with our regional Cancer Support Coordinators close to home is another way of accessing  assistance and support. Please see the list of available cancer support coordinators.

List of resources

Please open the shutter below to see details and links to all resources on how to set up and manage a cancer support group.