Cancer in the pandemic. Is Social Media an essential part of the cancer journey?

Nóirín O’Neill. 25 April 2021.

As a patient and a person who has survived a life threatening hemorrhaging form of leukaemia in 2004 at 30 years of age, I care deeply about the emotional and psychological impact of cancer –

Nóirín O’Neill

#EPIChat is back. #EPIChat is an online Twitter community to discuss the Emotional and Psychological Impact of Cancer. It was founded by Nóirín O’Neill in 2014 but after a few years of a break, #EPIChat is returning!

The tweetchat will be held on the first Sunday of each month at 8pm GMT, 9pm CET, 12 noon PST, 3pm EST. The first #EPIChat will be launched on Sunday 2 May 2021. Nóirín is delighted that Womb Cancer UK will be joining her as co-host. Follow @EPIChat2 and @WombCancerUK for further information.

Womb Cancer UK was founded on 11 April 2011 and they recently celebrated their 10th birthday! Womb Cancer UK are a small voluntary not for profit organisation based on the Isle of Bute off the west coast of Scotland but cover the whole of the UK. The aim of Womb Cancer UK is to offer support to women who have been diagnosed with womb cancer and also to raise much needed awareness of the most common gynaecological cancer and the 4th most common cancer in women in the UK.

Now more than ever, patients are going online to discuss their diagnosis, treatment and emotional impact of cancer. Social media has changed the communication landscape for many cancer patients. One recent study has shown that the lockdown measures of the ongoing COVID‐19 pandemic have disengaged patients with cancer from formal health care settings, leading to an increased use of social media platforms to address unmet needs and expectations.

This study also showed that patients with cancer have addressed this void by seeking informational and emotional support on diverse social media platforms. Twitter has been the most widely used platform, with more than two million tweets during this pandemic. Although the short‐form expressions on Twitter are well suited for the fast‐evolving nature of the pandemic and associated challenges, more substantial conversations and discussions are taking place on online cancer support groups (OCSGs). 

Previous research had shown that breast cancer patients are using online support groups and communities to engage with wider social networks, to connect with others navigating similar experiences and obtain cancer related information. Other research with users of the Ovarian Cancer Australia Facebook group showed that OCA Australia enhanced social support, enriched the experience of social connectedness, develops social presence and learning and ultimately improves the psychological well‐being of cancer patients.

What are the benefits and pitfalls of Social Network Sites (SNS) and Online Cancer Support Groups (OCSGs). We would love if you could join us on Sunday 2 May 2021 and hear your views!

Twitter Chat Questions

On Sunday 2 May 2021 at 8pm GMT, 9pm CET, 12 noon PST, 3pm EST, Nóirín O’Neill will co-host a Twitter chat with Womb Cancer UK. This Twitter chat will provide an opportunity to discuss issues surrounding the emotional and psychological impact of cancer during a pandemic.

T1: Twitter and other forms of social media are a useful online tool for cancer patients in the pandemic? Why do you think this is?

T2: What are the benefits and the pitfalls of discussing the emotional and psychological impact of cancer on social media?

T3: Do you think that social media is now an essential part of the cancer journey? Can cancer patients live without it?

T4: Closing Thoughts.

Join us on Sunday 2 May 2021 using hashtag #EPIChat. We look forward to our conversations!

Further information about Womb Cancer UK

Womb Cancer UK invite all women who are newly diagnosed, currently undergoing treatment or are in remission to join them on their Facebook page. They also have a private support group available on Facebook where women who have been diagnosed with womb cancer. Womb Cancer UK are LGBT inclusive and assure confidentiality at all times.

References

Cancer in Lockdown: Impact of the COVID‐19 Pandemic on Patients with Cancer https://theoncologist.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/onco.13604#.YIUsgwU_eFA.twitter

Erfani, S.S., Abedin, B. and Blount, Y. (2017), The effect of social network site use on the psychological well‐being of cancer patients. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 68: 1308-1322. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.23702

Falisi, A.L., Wiseman, K.P., Gaysynsky, A. et al. Social media for breast cancer survivors: a literature review. J Cancer Surviv 11, 808–821 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-017-0620-

Nóirín O’Neill was shortlisted for PR Student Blogger of the Year (UK Universities) in 2020 by the PR Academy. Nóirín is currently completing an MSc in PR & Communication (Healthcare Comms) at Ulster University. Nóirín is a freelance blogger and also welcomes guest blog posts on healthcare issues. Any requests should be sent to oneillhealthcarecomms@gmail.com

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