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Cancer and Social Medicine

Expert Author Michael J Dornan

More than 12.5 million health-related searches are conducted on the Internet each day. More than 2.3 million people dealing with cancer are online and searching for answers, and about 20% of people use the Internet through family and friends. However, the exact number of people with cancer cannot be determined. As cancer is widespread in developed countries, and people generally have better Internet access, the assumption of 20% of sufferers are Internet users, may actually be an underestimation.

For people with cancer, e-mail communication is important for staying in touch with friends and family. Email is rated the top item for the reason why people go online. An astounding 31 billion e-mail messages are exchanged daily worldwide. However, as 40% of all e-mail messages exchanged are spam, and relate to health items such as breast augmentation, penis enlargement, weight loss, and Viagra. However, sending emails is not as effective as other forms of communication, where questions can be answered immediately.

There is opportunity to improve email communication between cancer sufferers. Sufferers are expected to have all the current social networking functionality such as making friends, uploading photos and videos, writing on walls, e-mail, live chat one-to-one or in groups, and comment on blogs written. These forms of communication may help patients ask questions, facilitate understanding and shared decision-making, and reduce unnecessary appointments.

Online health communities or electronic support groups have emerged when enough people have registered to sustain public discussions, on a related topic. Information exchanged in communities, show 80% of information giving or seeking personal opinions, encouragement, support, and personal experiences, and 20% prayers. Women are engaging in supportive messages more frequently than men, who used the electronic community primarily for information exchange.

The various types of social networking such as e-mail, blogs and chat-rooms can increase social isolation and decreased mental and psychological wellbeing. Heavy Internet use can be associated with increases in loneliness and depression and tended to increase stress. However, people found within online communities seek for comfort and support from others found within the communities.

The quality of information on cancer found on the Internet shows an accuracy of: 4% for prostate, 5.1% for breast, and 6% for testicular cancer. The published rates of inaccurate information are disturbing. But very little evidence supports the notion that information found on the Internet is worse than the content found on forums, where the content written is by illness sufferers detailing their experiences. There are increasing demands of consumer driven health content. Real people suffering from cancer, write the content seen on forums and social networking sites, are seen as a favorable source of information by other sufferers.

It is seen that 48% of people with cancer reported that they had insufficient information provided by their physicians, while 20% were not satisfied with the information given and 39% of women with breast cancer indicated that they "wished that they had help with knowing what questions to ask." However, dissatisfaction with information provided is not the only reason why patients turn to the Internet.

The provision of information provided to people with cancer has been shown to help them gain control, reduce anxiety, create realistic expectations, promote self-care and participation, and generate feelings of safety and security. The satisfaction with information provided has been shown to correlate with quality of life. People, who feel satisfied with the adequacy of information given, are more likely to feel happy with their level of participation and in the overall process of decision-making.

Social Medicine (, a health based social networking site, helps people suffering from a variety of health conditions, to globally connect, help and share information with others in similar situations, by focusing on bridging the gap of patient-to-patient communication, and patient-to-practitioner, with all the social networking features and functionality expected in today's society. is designed to help individuals dealing with particular illnesses, to help share their thoughts, experiences, and knowledge with others who experience the same condition. Its emphasis is on connecting people and has all the social networking features and functionality expected. focuses on illness sufferers within the health communities. Social Medicine fosters a community support experience, where real people in similar situations come together, to circumvent negative feelings like disconnection and loneliness, and focus on improving self-esteem, understanding, communication, relationships, and peer support.

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