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LK 102
Use and influence of social networking sites in breast cancer survivors from diverse communities
LK 102
Use and influence of social networking sites in breast cancer survivors from diverse communities
Research Scientist, Cancer Prevention Institute of California
BackgroundWith more than 10 million cancer survivors in the United States, women with breast cancer comprise the largest group (23%) of all cancer survivors. The transition from active treatment to post-treatment... Read more

Description

Background

With more than 10 million cancer survivors in the United States, women with breast cancer comprise the largest group (23%) of all cancer survivors. The transition from active treatment to post-treatment care has been identified as a critical area that warrants further research to identify unmet needs and interventions to support breast cancer survivors. Distress after a breast cancer diagnosis can persist for years after treatment is concluded. Internet-based communities provided through social networking sites (SNSs) offer breast cancer survivors a convenient way to obtain information and emotional support from peers, particularly during times of uncertainty and stress. Although SNSs are rapidly gaining a strong online presence, little is known about the extent to which breast cancer survivors use them for health-related purposes. The purpose of this study is to better understand the value of online social networking sites for improving the survivorship experience after breast cancer, particularly in the years after treatment has ended. 

Methods

This study uses a mixed methods approach to provide more comprehensive characterization of patterns of SNS use and their informational value for health-related purposes among breast cancer survivors from different racial/ethnic groups. We conducted conduct focus groups with current SNS users and never users in a diverse sample of breast cancer survivors (non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, Latinas, and Asian Americans) ages 20-70 who have completed primary treatment (n=23). We also administered an online epidemiologic survey (n=200) to examine how breast cancer survivors use SNS resources for information and support and the impact on their quality of life. 

Results

We are currently in the final phase of the project to collect, monitor, and conduct interim analyses for the online epidemiologic survey, which primarily measure the extent to which social networking site are used among breast cancer survivors who are internet users. We anticipate that the results will be ready to present by the end of Summer 2014.

Conclusion

SNSs have the potential to fill gaps in supportive care and to address unmet needs among diverse breast cancer survivors who have completed primary treatment. The knowledge gained from this study will form the basis for future larger studies on the relationship between social networks and long-term health among breast cancer survivors and will have implications for leveraging innovative delivery of social network-based health interventions and programs aimed at reducing cancer disparities.

Dr. Gem Le is a Research Scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and a Consulting Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Research & Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine. She completed her Masters degree at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and her doctoral degree in Epidemiology from UC Berkeley. Dr. Le’s primary research interests are focused on the roles of social networks in cancer prevention and control, the influence of Web 2.0 and social media in cancer survivorship and developing digital health interventions to reduce cancer disparities. Dr. Le is currently PI of a Developmental Cancer Research Award funded by the Stanford Cancer Institute to better understand the value of online social networking sites for improving the survivorship experience after breast cancer, particularly in the years after primary treatment (with the exception of endocrine therapy) has ended. Her current research interests also include community-based participatory research involving patient advocates, influence of sociocultural factors (such as discrimination, immigration, and culture) on cancer care and outcomes, and the use of telehealth technology to improve cancer outcomes in rural communities.

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