1 August 2016
A study published in JAMA Oncology demonstrated that women who were engaged in social media after being diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely to express positive feelings and satisfaction related to their treatment decisions. The authors surveyed 2460 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients about their social media use including texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Approximately 41% of women reported some or frequent use of social media for online communication. They noted that the various social media communication platforms were used differently. Text and email were more frequently used to inform of a new diagnosis. Other social media sites and web-based support groups were primarily used to interact with others about treatment options and recommendations. Women also reported using all of these platforms to express negative emotions regarding their diagnosis and treatment.
The authors noted that women who were younger and well educated were more likely to use social media for communication. Black and Latina women were less likely to use social media compared to Caucasian and Asian women. These disparities have been demonstrated in other studies evaluating the use of social media by cancer patients and research is ongoing to determine how to best bring the advantages of online communities to older patients, minorities, and those who are less educated.
There is a lot of misinformation and dangerous information online. However, there are a large number of very reputable sites including support communities. As many of you know, I am actively involved as a co-moderator of a breast cancer support community on Twitter (#BCSM). We have previously shown that participation in the #BCSM community increases knowledge and decreases anxiety. While social media use is not for everyone, there is a growing body of literature suggesting that the various online communities provide value to newly diagnosed cancer patients.