Social media may help breast cancer patients with treatment decisions

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New York, July 29 (IANS) Women who engaged on social media after a breast cancer diagnosis expressed more deliberation and satisfaction about their treatment decision, says a study.

The findings showed that online communication was more common in younger women and those with more education.

In the study, 41 per cent of women reported some or frequent use of online communication. Texting and email were most common, with 35 per cent of women using it.

Twelve per cent of women reported using Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites, and 12 per cent used web-based support groups.

“Our findings highlight an unmet need in patients for decisional support when they are going through breast cancer treatment,” said lead author Lauren P. Wallner, Assistant Professor of General Medicine at the University of Michigan, in the US.

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Further, the women were also found using all email, texting, social media and web-based support groups to deal with the negative emotions and stress around their breast cancer diagnosis.

They are using these communications to cope, the researchers said.

Women who frequently used online communication had more positive feelings about their treatment decision.

They were more likely to report a deliberate decision and more likely to be highly satisfied with their decision.

Moreover, the women also reported separate reasons for using each of these media outlets.

“Email and texting were primarily to let people know they had been diagnosed. They tended to use social media sites and web-based support groups to interact about treatment options and physician recommendations,” Wallner noted.

However, the study found significant barriers to social media for some women, particularly older women, those with less education and minorities.

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“At this point, leveraging social media and online communication in clinical practice is not going to reach all patients. There are barriers that need to be considered,” Wallner added, in the paper appearing in the journal JAMA Oncology.

For the study, the team surveyed 2,460 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer about their use of email, texting, social media and web-based support groups following their diagnosis.

Although for many women social media may prove to be a helpful resource. But one cannot rely on it as a routine part of patient care, the researchers cautioned.

“We don’t know a lot about the type of information women are finding online. What are they sharing and what is the quality of that information? We need to understand that before we can really harness the potential of social media to better support patients through their cancer treatment and care,” Wallner said.

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