Patients with just about any disease can participate in social media to both provide and receive emotional support and to gain new information about the disease and its treatment. A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA) reviewed results from 35 studies worldwide and noted, “Social media platforms have the potential to help patients and practitioners overcome multiple barriers in the delivery of health care.”1

Social media for patients with cancer can involve their surrounding community of family members, caregivers, friends, nurses, and doctors, or it can be tailored only to patients. Increasingly, social media platforms serve as important outlets of credible health communication.

“There are a plethora of social platforms available to cancer patients and their families. But not all are created equally or intended to serve the same purpose,” Stacey Tinianov, patient and community engagement and advocacy consultant in San Francisco, California, said in an interview with Oncology Nurse Advisor.

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She explained that sites such as CaringBridge and WhatFriendsDo allow patients with cancer to update their friends and family on their care and to ask for and organize support, while social platforms such as PatientsLikeMe, Smart Patients, and MyBCTeam are made for patients to interact with other patients for peer-to-peer support and knowledge exchange. 

“Twitter and public Facebook groups provide more expansive social platforms with a global reach and often a mixed audience that includes patients, caregivers, providers, and researchers,” Tinianov said.

Patients can therefore choose 1 or many social media platforms in which to participate, with “new social sites seeming to crop up daily,” Tinianov added.