“We are a more internet savvy culture,” says Dr. Michael Cochran, an oncologist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “You see online communities crop up for everything, so it’s not surprising to see such a large presence for one of the most prevalent diseases.”
The advantage that online support groups have over traditional “in-person” support groups is that they are available 24/7.
“You don’t have to wait any longer for the Thursday night group meeting, or worry about the weather getting there. You have ready access in your own home, which can be a definite advantage. I think it’s an excellent resource for patients,” says Dr. Cochran.
Are they helpful?
Researchers at UCLA embarked in a first-of-its-kind evaluation of the effectiveness of online support resources for cancer patients, and found that online postings by patients with breast cancer helped to reduce depression, increase a positive mood, and enhance their overall appreciation for life. The new study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Many sites offer chat rooms or discussion boards for patients and families affected by cancer to post questions or offer advice, while other sites feature blogs and forums for individuals to talk about their experiences.
The following is a list of resources that are available to cancer patients, survivors and family members online. It’s by no means exhaustive, but definitely worth checking out:
The Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR) offers 142 free online communities for parents, caregivers, family members, and friends to discuss clinical and nonclinical issues and advances pertaining to all forms of a specific disease.
IHadCancer.com is a peer-to-peer online support resource started by Mailet Lopez, a breast cancer survivor, in 2008. It is a social network that has grown considerably in the last few years, and offers a section in which users can post messages “to cancer.”