Social media isn't always the most encouraging of places, but it can actually be pretty useful when it comes to sharing your health-related experiences. According to a new study published in JAMA Oncology, women who turned to online networks for help after getting diagnosed with breast cancer felt better and more secure in their respective treatment decisions.
Researchers followed how 2,460 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients used a range of online communication tools — such as email, texting, social media, and web forums — to discuss various issues related to their diagnosis, including treatment and care. Of those people, 41 percent used some form of digital communication to share their diagnosis with others. Unsurprisingly, younger patients tended to rely on online forums more, while older women (the study's median age was 61.9 years old) didn't use them quite as much.
But regardless of age, there was one common theme among the women who did turn to online forums after diagnosis. As the study concludes, those patients felt "increased satisfaction and decision deliberation during the breast cancer treatment decision process.” Why? Talking through their options with other people who had similar experiences helped them feel more confident in their treatment decisions. Finding support on networks like Twitter and Facebook also helped them cope during an anxious and stressful time.
Of course, it's important to be safe and smart while seeking treatment advice online. While there may be a wealth of information on the web, not all of it is reliable or legitimate. But as long as you make sure to find scientifically-backed sources and verified forums, women battling breast cancer and other health conditions may find a whole new level of support online.