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Watching how cancer patients interact online could help clinicians provide better services
Date:5/11/2011

Men who visited a major online support group after being diagnosed with prostate cancer were most likely to seek advice on therapy and treatment, together with emotional support, according to research in the May issue of the urology journal BJUI. But, surprisingly, they went to great lengths to avoid using the word "cancer".

Researchers studied 501 threads posted during a 32-month period on Germany's largest prostate cancer forum, run by an umbrella group of organisations covering the disease. They analysed 1,630 posts on 82 threads started by men who had just been diagnosed and needed help to make decisions. Off-topic threads and posts written by people seeking advice on behalf of others were excluded.

"Social support plays a major role for most patients with prostate cancer, because of the intimate nature of the disease and the fact that there are such a wide range of treatment choices available for men with localised disease" explains lead author Dr Johannes Huber from the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

"Online support groups enable us to understand how patients communicate with each other when it comes to making medical decisions and this knowledge increases our understanding of our patients' needs and concerns."

Key findings of the study included:

  • Specific questions were posed in 79% of the threads, with the other 21% covering more general areas.

  • Two-thirds of the questions (66%) were about therapy recommendations, 46% were about treatment, including side effects, and 46% of the men explicitly sought emotional support.

  • The other topics to make the top five were diagnostic matters (39%) and physicians and institutions (28%).

  • Over a third of the threads (35%) included comments on specific treatment options, 24% offered emotional support and 21% relayed the responder's first-hand experiences.

  • Posters were less likely to recommend surgic
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Contact: Annette Whibley
annette.wizard@gmail.com
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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