Oral Presentations: Meet me at the virtual bar: cancer survivor and family experiences of online cancer communities

Harkin, Lydia Jo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0511-5934, Beaver, Kinta orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6552-2323, Dey, Maria Paola and Choong, Kartina Aisha orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9407-1771 (2016) Oral Presentations: Meet me at the virtual bar: cancer survivor and family experiences of online cancer communities. Psycho-Oncology, 25 (S1). pp. 1-22. ISSN 10579249

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/pon.4077


Background: It has been reported that a quarter of people diagnosed with cancer lack social support. Online cancer communities could provide this form of support. Sixty-one per cent of adults in the UK access social media every day and online cancer communities are rising in popularity. However, there is limited evidence about how people use online cancer communities, and how they may, or may not, support people affected by cancer. Aims: This study aims to explore experiences of people affected by cancer visiting online cancer communities. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted using a constructivist grounded theory approach. Data were generated through semi-structured interviews with people who had visited online cancer communities, including people diagnosed with cancer and their family members. Results: A core category was developed and labelled ‘navigating cancer using online communities’. Participants used support in communities to navigate challenges they faced with cancer. This produced three categories of experience in online communities. Firstly, the advice of community members set participants on a ‘journey to become informed’. Secondly, participants were cast into a ‘journey to recreate identity’ as they connected and formed friendships online. Thirdly, participants navigated a ‘journey through different online worlds’ to the most relevant and often hidden communities. Conclusions: Social support is prevalent in online communities, multifaceted and mobilises active self-management in cancer care. This theoretical framework can inform the development of existing online communities to suit the needs of people affected by cancer. Further research should consider online communities in interventions for cancer self-management.

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