Cancer Communication on Social Media: Examining How Cancer Caregivers Use Facebook for Cancer-Related Communication

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Background:Americans are increasingly using social media (such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) for health-related communication. Much of the previous research on social media and health communication has focused on Facebook groups related to a specific disease or Facebook pages related to an advocacy organization. Less is known about how people communicate about cancer on personal Facebook pages.Objective:In this study, we expand upon previous research by examining how cancer caregivers use personal Facebook pages for cancer-related communication.Methods:We examined themes in cancer-related exchanges through a content analysis of 12 months of data from 18 publically available Facebook pages hosted by parents of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (15 852 total posts).Results:Six themes emerged: (1) documenting the cancer journey, (2) sharing emotional strain associated with caregiving, (3) promoting awareness and advocacy about pediatric cancer, (4) fundraising, (5) mobilizing support, and (6) expressing gratitude for support.Conclusions:Building upon previous research documenting the increasing use of social media for health-related communication and support, our findings show that personal Facebook pages offer a platform for cancer caregivers to share their cancer-related experiences, promote advocacy and awareness, and mobilize social support.Implications for Practice:Providers must recognize the importance of social media as a vehicle for support and communication for families of children with cancer. Nurses should educate parents on how to appraise information obtained through Facebook using evidence-based guidelines. Providers can encourage caregivers to use Facebook as a tool for communication, information, and support.

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