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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Minnesota: Facebook Good Source of Emotional — But Not Material — Support for Breast Cancer Patients

A University of Minnesota School of Public Health study recently examined how Facebook friends provide support to breast cancer patients and found they’re initially eager to provide emotional support but that their support steadily declines over time.

The study was led by researcher Dr. Jude Mikal and published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. Dr. Mikal is interested in how social media can best support people experiencing traumatic medical events.

The researchers reviewed 21,291 Facebook posts made by breast cancer patients who agreed to release their data. The posts occurred from a period between three months before breast cancer diagnosis to three months following completion of treatment for the disease. 

The study found: 

“The theory is each post works as a ‘roll call’ for friends and family, to see who is out there and willing to provide support if needed,” said Dr. Mikal. “The sad part is we know that the transition off therapy is also a stressful period for cancer patients because they abruptly lose their medical care team and are expected to resume normal life, but now as a cancer survivor with all its possible daily changes and implications. It’s a time when we’d like to see another spike in commenting and support.”

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