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Social media for breast cancer survivors: a literature review

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Abstract

Purpose

Social media may offer support to individuals who are navigating the complex and challenging experience of cancer. A growing body of literature has been published over the last decade exploring the ways cancer survivors utilize social media. This study aims to provide a systematic synthesis of the current literature in order to inform cancer health communication practice and cancer survivorship research.

Methods

Using PRISMA guidelines, four electronic databases were searched to retrieve publications on breast cancer and social media published between 2005 and 2015. The final sample included 98 publications (13 commentaries and reviews, 47 descriptive studies, and 38 intervention studies). Intervention studies were assessed for key features and outcome measures. Studies utilizing content analysis were further evaluated qualitatively.

Results

Online support groups were the most commonly studied platform, followed by interactive message boards and web forums. Limited research focuses on non-Caucasian populations. Psychosocial well-being was the most commonly measured outcome of interest. While social media engagement was assessed, few standardized measures were identified. Content analyses of social media interactions were prevalent, though few articles linked content to health outcomes.

Conclusions

The current literature highlights the impact and potential utility of social media for breast cancer survivors. Future studies should consider connecting social media engagement and content to psychosocial, behavioral, and physical health outcomes.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Online groups and communities may improve the well-being of breast cancer survivors by providing opportunities to engage with wider social networks, connect with others navigating similar cancer experiences, and obtain cancer-related information. Researchers should consider the potential role of social media in addressing the unmet needs of breast cancer survivors, and particularly the implications for clinical and public health practice.

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Correspondence to Angela L. Falisi.

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Appendix 1

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Table 3 Summary of intervention articles

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Falisi, A.L., Wiseman, K.P., Gaysynsky, A. et al. Social media for breast cancer survivors: a literature review. J Cancer Surviv 11, 808–821 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-017-0620-5

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