Patterns of social media use and associations with psychosocial outcomes among breast and gynecologic cancer survivors



We sought to characterize the use of social media (SM) among breast and gynecologic cancer survivors, as well as associations between patterns of SM use and psychosocial outcomes.


Two hundred seventy-three breast and gynecologic cancer survivors recruited at the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center completed the study. Participants completed questionnaires to measure quality of life (FACT-G), functional social support (Duke-UNC FSSQ), distress (PHQ-4), decision regret (DRS), and SM use.


In total, 75.8% of the sample reported using SM. There was no difference in quality of life (QOL), functional social support (FSS), distress, or decision regret between SM users and non-users. SM users indicated using SM for social support (34.3%) and loneliness (24.6%) more than for information-seeking (15.9%), coping (18.8%), or self-disclosure (14%). SM use for coping was associated with lower QOL (p < .001), lower FSS (p < .001), and higher decision regret (p = .029). Use for social support was associated with lower FSS (p = .029). Use for information seeking was associated with lower QOL (p = .012). Use of SM when lonely was associated with lower QOL (p < .001), higher distress (p = .007), lower FSS (p < .001), and higher decision regret (p = .020).


Associations between SM use and psychosocial outcomes are nuanced and dependent on motivation for use. Further research is needed to better characterize SM use and associations with psychosocial outcomes among cancer survivors.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

SM is an important potential avenue for understanding and addressing the psychosocial effects associated with cancer survivorship.

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We would like to acknowledge Mallory Cases, Ph.D., M.P.H., for her valuable contributions to the study.


The study was funded via the Stanford Cancer Innovation Award 2018, NCI R01CA181659 and NCI R01CA239714.

Author information




Conceptualization: Oxana Palesh, Lidia Schapira, Allison Kurian, and Jonathan S. Berek.

Data collection: Oxana Palesh, Elisa Hofmeister, and Sophie Fisher.

Analysis: Leah Tolby and Oxana Palesh.

Interpretation of data: Leah Tolby, Sabrina Chao, Elisa Hofmeister, and Sophie Fisher.

Manuscript writing: Leah Tolby, Oxana Palesh, and Catherine Benedict.

Manuscript editing and review: All authors.

All authors read and approved final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Oxana G. Palesh.

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All participants provided informed consent, and the study received Stanford IRB Approval.

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Tolby, L.T., Hofmeister, E.N., Fisher, S. et al. Patterns of social media use and associations with psychosocial outcomes among breast and gynecologic cancer survivors. J Cancer Surviv (2020).

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  • Social media
  • Cancer survivors
  • Distress
  • Social support
  • Quality of life
  • Decision regret