The beginning of October marked the commencement of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign organized and supported by major breast cancer charities across the United States.

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is extremely painful and stressful for the patient, but being the family member or friend of someone living with cancer can be equally frightening and confusing. It is oftentimes difficult to find the right words to say or the best way to support the patient and receive support as a family member or friend of the patient.

Representatives from both The Cancer Treatment Center of America and the American Cancer Society stressed the importance of communication with patients and the availability of resources as well as the importance of counseling during this trying time.

According to those experts, caregivers have to keep the lines of communication open and ask the patient about how they’re feeling or doing frequently.

Additionally, because cancer can be a lifelong illness, family members and friends would need support and encouragement the whole time, after diagnosis and even long term. They advised that those impacted by cancer ought to look for a cancer support group nearby. Many support groups offer services to patient caregiver and families and there are even support groups that specifically work with children whose parents receive a new diagnosis.

There are many great organizations dedicated to supporting cancer patients and their families and loved ones such as the Cancer Support Community, Cancer Hope Network and CancerCare.

In Maryland there are more than a few local support groups such as B.C.S.G or the Baltimore Cancer Support Group, which also has locations in Westminster and Parkville, and a plethora of other support groups that can be easily found through the aforementioned organizations, Cancer Treatments Centers of America or the American Cancer Society.

The Baltimore Cancer Support group offers patient, caregiver and bereavement groups which focus on the needs of a different person affected by cancer. The patient group focuses on those diagnosed with cancer and the emotional and physical trauma that accompanies said diagnosis. The caregiver group caters to those who are caregivers or family members of a loved one living with cancer and focuses specifically on the needs of not only the patient but also the caregiver and the added stress that can bring to both parties involved. The bereavement group supports those working through the grieving process after losing a loved one to cancer.

To learn more about the BCSG, feel free to call 410-668-1762 or visit the website www.

Although the onset or diagnosis of breast cancer can feel encompassing and consuming, it is important to remember that the patient is more than their illness and can still lead a full, fulfilling life.

“Don’t let their illness define them,” said a American Cancer Society representative. “They’re still the same person and they’re lives are not defined by cancer. They’re not their illness. Try to remember that although a diagnosis can be difficult and living with cancer even more so, the patient is still a person at the end of the day.”

To be put in contact with support groups in your area, feel free to call the American Cancer Society hotline, 1-800-227-2345.