Oncology Central

The role of social media in cancer care

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To mark our focus on social media in cancer care we recently spoke with Deanna Attai from the University of California (CA, USA) about the potential use of social media in cancer care including how oncologists can incorporate social media into their care plans as well as the opportunities and risks they should be aware of.

You have previously written on social media in cancer care: highlights, challenges & opportunities. In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of utilizing social media in cancer care?

There are many benefits to utilizing social media in cancer care. Probably the top for me is using Twitter specifically to help filter information. By following specific journals as well as other physicians and researchers who share common interests, my network brings relevant content to me. I find it much more efficient than my old method of reviewing multiple journals to find articles of interest. I do skim the journals that come in the mail but most of the time I find I’ve already come across the relevant articles online.

“There is enormous potential for networking and collaboration with physicians across multiple specialties for those who utilize social media.”

In addition, I am exposed to content I might not otherwise seek out. I do not read journals specific to colorectal cancer for example but there may be articles in those journals on a topic relevant to me as an oncology physician. I am also more likely to review articles on medical education and other topics of general interest if I come across them in my Twitter feed. You can only subscribe to so many journals, but if you are deliberate in who you listen to (follow) on Twitter, you will come across a significant amount of information that is relevant and interesting.

Another often overlooked benefit of social media is the personal connection. Many criticize social media for being impersonal and I’ve found it to be completely the opposite. I do not think I would have met any of my COSMO collaborators if it were not for Twitter – I met all of them online before we had the chance to meet in person. There is enormous potential for networking and collaboration with physicians across multiple specialties for those who utilize social media.

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