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Breast cancer affects different women differently.
That’s why the Breast Friends Forever (BFF) support group enables young breast cancer survivors to share their experiences in San Antonio, Texas (64% Latino).
Recently, some BFF leaders joined the “Health Conversations with Anna Smith” Podcast. They talked about the need for the group and its origins in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
These include: Sandra L. San Miguel, BFF co-founder and program director at the National Cancer Institute; Brenda Garza, BFF co-founder and a survivor; Stanlie Murray, BFF executive director and a survivor; and Erica Ann De Zaiffe, BFF member and a survivor.
“BFF was a pioneer in those days, combining outreach and education activities with virtual outreach support through Facebook group, and other social media platforms,” San Miguel said. “Survivors shared their individual and inspiring stories of diagnosis and survival. They gave advice to those currently battling the disease and their family members.”
What Is the BFF Support Group?
The Breast Friends Forever (BFF) support group meets bimonthly.
They help over 120 young survivors bond with each other and get emotional support. They also learn more about breast health from expert speakers. Amid COVID-19, they do meetings via Zoom.
The support group was originally created in 2013 by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio (the team behind Salud America!). Susan G. Komen San Antonio also helped organize the group.
“We want young survivors to build positive relationships with other survivors their age in a fun and educational setting, to improve their quality of life during and after breast cancer,” San Miguel, then a research instructor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research, said at the time.
Why Is the BFF Support Group Needed?
Breast cancer in younger women often is more aggressive with lower survival rates.
About one in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer are younger than 45. Younger survivors face different challenges—such as dating and body image issues and starting a career and/or family and having to deal with chemotherapy treatment—than women diagnosed after 40.
San Miguel said young survivors often have few people to lean on.
“Through our research and outreach work I realized there are no support groups specifically for young breast cancer survivors. I thought, ‘Why not start one?’” San Miguel said at the time of the group’s founding.
During the new podcast, the survivors lauded the BFF support group.
“It’s not about the journey, it’s about how you choose to go through it,” Murray said.
She also advised Latinas of all ages to participate in clinical trials.
“Ask your provider about opportunities to participate in breast cancer research and clinical trials,” San Miguel said. “We need to increase diversity in research to learn more about how breast cancer impacts different populations and help us develop better treatments.”
How Can You Join the BFF Support Group or Find Help in Your Area?
Susan G. Komen, a leading breast cancer research and education organization, also has a web page dedicated to helping breast cancer survivors and family members find a support group.
“Support groups can be an important resource for people diagnosed with breast cancer,” according to Komen. “They help increase the support network of the people in the group.”
Also, Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio partners with the BFF team to share stories of cancer survivors. See them here!