public health

Dec 16

Social Media and Cancer

Victoria Baxter

The Pew Research Center released an interesting report this week on how social media might be a “trump card” for people living with chronic disease.  The research shows that people, especially those with chronic diseases like cancer, trust offline sources of information like health professionals (93 percent) or printed reference materials (56 percent) more than online sources (44 percent). In addition, trust in health information on the Web has waned in the last decade.

Despite these numbers, social media plays an important role in providing opportunities for people to learn from and interact with their peers, including sharing practical advice for coping with the day-to-day realities and challenges of living with cancer.

It makes sense — after all, you go to your doctor for medical advice and diagnosis but might look to friends or other cancer survivors for practical tips on dealing with all the other health, well being or emotional issues that come up when you are battling a disease. 

Social media allows people across large distances to meet, connect and discuss in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. Not only are people spending time in chat rooms and messages boards for rare types of cancers and other diseases, but many are also blogging about their experiences.

As Pew’s study shows, the Internet isn’t going to replace your doctor. But as the author of the report notes, social media engagement can be an important tool when it comes to communicating health information and experiences.