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Support person activities

A support person can provide support for a person with cancer, or the person’s loved ones, at different stages of the disease as

  • a peer support volunteer
  • a palliative or hospice care support volunteer
  • an everyday companion.

A peer support volunteer is someone who has had cancer, but anyone who is interested in helping can be a support person.

A  palliative or hospice care support volunteer can be a patient’s loved one or anyone who is interested and suitable to provide support during the final stages of life.

All Cancer Society volunteers participating in support person activities receive training given by the society. At the same time, they make a commitment to the principles, guidelines and values of activities. One of the most important principles of activities is that a person with cancer can discuss matters with the support person confidentially, as the support person has given a pledge of confidentiality.

The regional cancer societies and national patient organisations are responsible for support person activities in their own region.

Peer support volunteer

Peer support plays an important role alongside the work of professionals. A peer support volunteer is someone who has had cancer and recovered, a person with chronic cancer or the loved one of a person who has had cancer. In some situations, a person who has previously experienced the same disease provides the best help to a cancer patient. A trained peer support volunteer can support and encourage, can listen and understand, and can ask the right questions. A peer support volunteer remembers how the disease feels in the body and the emotions the disease caused.  Volunteer recognises the thoughts people with cancer, or their loved ones, have.

The Cancer Society trains peer support volunteers and regularly arranges meetings with them to guide activities. During training, peer support volunteers acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to encounter a person with cancer or their loved ones. The goal is that persons receiving support would be able to make use of their own resources and live the best possible life in view of the situation.

Peer support can be given in person, over the phone or online. Meetings with a peer support volunteer can take place in private or in small groups. Peer support groups are led by a trained peer support group instructor. Groups are organised on different themes, for people of different ages, and for people with different types of cancer.

Palliative and hospice care support volunteers

Palliative care is care for people who are approaching death. When there is no hope of recovery, the goal is to ease the symptoms, relieve pain and alleviate the anxiety of the patient and the patient’s loved ones, and to support a good final stage of life. The patient or a loved one can hope for a palliative care support volunteer. A palliative care support volunteer can be active in home hospice care or in hospital.

A palliative care support volunteer supplements the support given by loved ones and professionals. Volunteers can help in practical matters, or they can provide safety and company. A support volunteer can give the patient’s loved one the opportunity for a needed break, or can be someone to discuss the emotions raised by the disease with, or can simply be a silent presence beside the patient.

The Cancer Society trains palliative care volunteers. Regular meetings to guide activities are arranged for palliative care support volunteers. Volunteers are carefully chosen, as the role is emotionally heavy also for the volunteer. During training, it is possible for both sides to contemplate whether palliative care is the right sort of volunteer activity for you.

An everyday companion

An everyday companion supports the patient in an altered daily life, listens and is a companion. Being together takes shape according to the patient’s wishes. An everyday companion can help the patient with cancer in daily life, for instance, by taking walks with the patient, by accompanying the patient on doctor’s visits or by assisting with shopping.

An everyday companion can be anyone who wants to help the person with cancer have a smooth and balanced daily life. What’s more, it is often natural to switch from peer support activity to being an everyday companion when several years have passed since one’s own disease.

The relationship between an everyday companion and a patient, too, is based on confidentiality. Some regional cancer associations train everyday companions.

Advocacy volunteers

The Cancer Society’s advocacy volunteers are trained volunteers who have themselves experienced cancer or have a loved one with cancer. They share their own experience-based knowledge with healthcare and social welfare students and professionals, and with others who are interested. They provide a perspective on what getting the disease means at the individual level and what types of things the disease brings to a person’s life.

The Cancer Society is involved in a national network, which includes associations and federations representing different disease and disability groups. Our advocacy volunteers are trained by the network.

More information about training and future training courses is available in Finnish at

Contact us if you’re interested in having an advocacy volunteer tell about his or her experiences, for example to students.