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Cancer patients benefited by online information services and support groups

Novel research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research has revealed that breast cancer patients, who avail// the online information services and the information provided by support groups, feel confident about managing their illness and coming to terms with it.

Breast cancer patients who use online information services in combination with computer support groups and other interactive services are the most likely to feel they have the information they need to cope with their illness, according to new research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research.

"Previous research indicated that women with breast cancer can learn as a result of having access to online health education resources, but this is among the first studies to explain how such learning actually occurs," says Bret Shaw, lead author of the study. The results are published as an advance issue of the journal Health Education Research.

To examine the most effective ways that cancer patients learn online, the researchers provided free computers and Internet access to 286 lower income women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Participants were also provided access to an integrated computer-based health education and support system called the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) "Living with Breast Cancer" program offering four distinct types of services.

The first type was information services - static Web pages containing a broad range of breast cancer-related information. The system also offered support groups enabling peer-to-peer communication and an expert service allowing patients to ask a question and receive a response within 48 hours. The other service type was interactive in which the computer played an active role in guiding the user, making suggestions, offering feedback and influencing the user's behavior. A browser automatical
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