Talking to Others Online Linked to More Satisfaction With Treatment Decisions

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A study suggests that women who talk to other people online shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer may be more satisfied with their treatment decisions.

The research was published online on July 28, 2016 by the journal JAMA Oncology. Read “Use of Online Communication by Patients With Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer During the Treatment Decision Process.”

To do the study, the researchers surveyed 2,460 women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer about their use of online communication tools and their satisfaction with the treatment decision-making process.

The women were ages 20 to 79, and all were diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer.

The survey asked about the women’s use of:

  • email
  • texting
  • social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and blogs
  • web-based support groups

to talk about their diagnosis, treatment, or care.

The survey also asked the women to rank how satisfied they were with their treatment decision-making process, from high to low.

Most of the women were white (59.3%); 16.3% of the women were black. Most of them (72.9%) had some college education or more.

Overall, 1,002 (41.2%) of the women reported some or frequent use of online communication:

  • 37.4% said they used email or texted
  • 12.3% said they used social media
  • 11.9% said they used online support groups

Women who had more education and were younger were more likely to use online communications.

Compared to women who never communicated online, women who frequently talked online were more satisfied with their treatment decision-making process.

"Women reported separate reasons for using each of these modalities," said Dr. Lauren Wallner, assistant professor of general medicine at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study. "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. Women also reported using all of these outlets to deal with the negative emotions and stress around their breast cancer diagnosis. They're using these communications to cope.

"…At this point, leveraging social media and online communication in clinical practice is not going to reach all patients," she added. "There are barriers that need to be considered."

The results of this study are probably no surprise to anyone who looks to for information or to talk to other people in similar situations on our Discussion Boards. Our Discussion Boards have thousands of active members, so if you want to connect with someone who’s starting chemotherapy or having surgery at the same time that you are, you’re likely to find that person on our site.

Still, as the researchers pointed out, some women aren’t able to use online communications. They may have limited access to the Internet or may be intimidated by the prospect of learning all the various online tools.

The researchers recommend that more research be done to learn how to best break down the barriers to online communication some women face and also how to use online communication to improve patient experiences.

Stay tuned to Research News for the latest information on online tools and techniques to make sure you make the best decisions for YOU!

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