How social media is an ally in fight against cancer

Back to my favourite topic today – the power of social media to connect, educate and support. On a personal level, I could talk about this topic ad infinitum, but I was delighted to recently come across an article which backs up my opinions.

Earlier this year, Karen Paterson writing in Cure Today magazine went so far as to say that in the “realm of cancer support, social media websites…are no less revolutionary than, say, X-rays were for medical imaging: The new technology has changed everything.” 

A pretty powerful statement wouldn’t you say? Would you agree with this? I certainly would and there are many others who do too, like Heidi Adams, founder of Planet Cancer, a social and informational site for young adults with cancer.

“The Internet in general and, more recently, social media are really what led to the whole young adult movement,” says Adams “Prior to 2000 there really wasn’t any way for this fragmented patient population to find each other and connect. Planet Cancer was created as an online home to connect patients…The opportunity to share resources, advice, and encouragement is something that can be incredibly empowering for a cancer patient.”

And it is not just patients themselves who are accessing information online. A great many are using the web to gather information on behalf of family and friends. One key attraction is that any person, anywhere—whether they are a patient, survivor, caregiver, family member, or friend—can find someone else in similar circumstances. They appreciate the convenience of being able to seek information at any hour, the fact that they can get a wealth of information online, and the fact that they can do research anonymously.

Similarly, social media can be an important outreach tool for individual health care providers. “Everybody agrees that social media and the Internet are becoming very important in terms of public health issues,” says John Mack, executive editor and publisher of Pharma Marketing News and Pharma Marketing Blog. “It’s where people now go to first when they’re trying to find out about medical conditions, even before they talk to their doctor.”

Anas Younes, MD, of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, uses Facebook and Twitter, along with the video site YouTube, to communicate with anyone interested in receiving information about lymphoma or other cancers. For instance, his first YouTube piece for M.D. Anderson, on novel therapies for Hodgkin lymphoma, has had more than 12,000 views and led to an increase in referrals to the cancer center, Younes says. “You can reach people whom you don’t reach using standard communications tools,” he says.

Well I don’t need any more convincing of the power and influence of social media to inspire, inform, empower and build a very unique community among cancer survivors. People are sharing and critiquing what they find. If they don’t find what they need, they are creating it. I am witness to it on a daily basis, but I did enjoy reading this article as further proof. How about you? What are your thoughts on  how health is becoming social? Has it helped you as a cancer survivor or carer? Share your thoughts here.

Related Posts

Finding support online

Should doctors go online?

The importance of social media to non-profits