Jenny Holt is a mother and a freelance health, nature and tech writer. The impact of connection between social media and the cancer community empowers a take charge attitude.
A study in the journal, JAMA Oncology, has found that newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients are turning to social media and online support groups to aid with their treatment decision-making and to help them to cope with anxiety and negative emotions relating to their diagnosis. But with only 12 per cent of respondents using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and another 12 per cent using online support groups, this is a resource that is under utilized.
Social media, and blogs in particular, can act as an online diary, a place to record and reflect on thoughts and feelings and to explore negative emotions. The huge range of blogs written by cancer patients, demonstrated in Live Better With’s list of 20 most helpful cancer blogs, shows the emotional complexity of living with cancer. In sharing experiences, patients are able to recognize that their situation is not unique and that they are not alone. The Blogging Community offers a look at many of the shared experiences in cancer.
When dealing with anxiety and stress, support can help tremendously. By sharing experiences online in blogs or on social networking platforms, cancer patients can feel more connected and less isolated.
One patient, Amanda Kelly, writes that ‘the outpouring of support from people near and far was overwhelming’ after she shared her diagnosis on social media. When rushing between doctors’ appointments or feeling exhausted after treatment, an online post can be the most efficient way of updating friends and family.
Connecting online with fellow patients can help gather factual and anecdotal information to make decisions about treatment options. Anecdotal information is often incredibly valuable in assessing which direction to take. Seldom do doctors understand the long term repercussions of surgery or radiation. Talking with other patients can provide insights into the reality of the cancer experience.
Groups such as BCSM (Breast Cancer Social Media), the Anti-Cancer Club and others provide communities and networks for more information. With the vast range of different types of cancer, you are far more likely to be able to find someone who has the same specific type online, in comparison to a real-life support group. And patients can pay it forward, sharing their experiences and insights to help others.
Cancer strips away a sense of control. Taking charge of the situation by connecting with others using social media and gathering the information needed to make informed decisions empowering. It also helps overcome the many taboos associated with cancer.
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