A report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that people with cancer use the Internet to gather information about their conditions and to connect with other cancer patients.
A new report
Pew Internet & American Life Project called "Internet Cancer 2.0: A
Summary of Recent Research" suggests that the Internet is a great resource
for people suffering from cancer and other chronic conditions, yet the
potential exists for greater use.
Currently 62 percent of adults living with a chronic disease
use the Internet compared with 82 percent of adults without chronic diseases,
according to the Pew report.
In addition, of respondents, 62 percent of cancer patients go
online compared with 47 percent with heart conditions and 50 percent with
With cancer patients more likely to be active in monitoring
their condition than those with other types of chronic diseases, the Internet
presents an opportunity to seek and share information-particularly in social
media, Pew suggests.
"The Internet is not just an information vending
machine," Susannah Fox, Pew's associate director for digital strategy,
wrote in the report. "It is a social, mobile communications device that
can fit in someone's pocket, helping them wherever they are to connect with
just-in-time information and support."
One recent example of using the Internet to deal with a health
condition is Elizabeth
. The wife of former Sen. John Edwards turned to Facebook on Dec.
6, the day before she died, to express her thoughts about her cancer struggle.
"The days of our lives, for all of us, are
numbered," Elizabeth Edwards wrote. "We know that. And yes,
there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and
patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in
the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive
impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and
precious. And for that I am grateful."
The growth of broadband and mobile access is a valuable
resource for those living with cancer or other chronic diseases. Two-thirds of
Americans have broadband Internet connectivity now compared with 5 percent in
2000, according to Pew.
In addition, eight in 10 Internet users research health topics
online, regardless of their health status, Pew reports. They search for prescription
drug options and ways to treat conditions.
The report also suggests that blogging and online discussion
groups can be helpful for people dealing with a chronic disease. "When
other demographic factors are held constant, having a chronic disease
significantly increases an Internet user's likelihood to say they work on a
blog or contribute to an online discussion, a listserv or other online group
that helps people with personal issues or health problems," Fox wrote.
Chronic disease patients may also access reviews of doctors
or hospitals as well as podcasts, according to the report.
"They unearth nuggets of information, they blog, they
participate in online discussions and they just keep going," Fox wrote.
Health resources on the Internet include sites such as WebMD
An Aug. 25 report
by comScore and ImpactRx
found Medscape and WebMD as two of the most
popular online resources for doctors.
Companies such as WebMD and Epocrates also offer mobile apps
on platforms such as the iPhone and iPad that allow people to research prescriptions
and manage their conditions.