UF Health MedMatters

Social Media: A cancer patient’s backstage pass to cancer information, research and support

Social media is like an all-access pass — people can tap into an almost unlimited amount of information. For cancer patients, social media offers access to cancer information, research and communities.

Merry-Jennifer Markham, M.D., FACP, FASCO, associate director for medical affairs at the UF Health Cancer Center and social media editor for the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Journal of Clinical Oncology, sees social media as a resource for patients and physicians.
“Social media has accelerated information to patients and to clinicians in a way that is probably mind-boggling to both,” Markham said.

A physician looks at his phone While it’s true that you can’t believe everything you read online, Markham thinks social media is a great way to spark important conversations with her patients.
“I love when patients bring to me things they've read on social media,” Markham said. “It’s a great way to start a conversation and can be a good segue into a conversation that you didn’t know you needed to have. It’s also a great opportunity to correct incorrect or misleading information that can be found on social media as well.”
Markham steers her patients toward resources that she has personally vetted and can trust. Her recommendations are:

“My No. 1 recommendation for patients is to actually talk to their physician about the information they want to be able to find or how they would like to use social media,” Markham said. “Their physician or someone within the clinic, perhaps a social worker, might be able to point them to some good online resources for both information and for support.”
Social media offers patients supportive communities to feel less alone. Markham said social media networking is especially important in areas where in-person support groups may be limited. Cancer patients can find support groups searching their type of cancer on Facebook or through hashtags on Twitter, such as #BCSM (breast cancer social media), #gyncsm (gynecologic cancers), #LCSM (lung cancer) and more.
Other online support resources Markham recommends are:

“Social media has really opened up a world of potential for support for cancer patients,” Markham said. “They can find support within very focused groups centered around one type of cancer, a type of cancer with a mutation or just general cancer support. I think it’s a great thing for patients to have.”

About UF Health Shands Hospital

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University of Florida Health Shands Hospital has been recognized among the nation’s best hospitals in seven adult medical specialties. Overall, UF Health Shands Hospital was recognized as one of the best hospitals in Florida. In addition to being ranked among the nation’s top 50 hospitals in seven specialties, UF Health Shands Hospital also was listed as “high performing” in seven specialties, including abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, colon cancer surgery, COPD, heart failure, lung cancer surgery, neurology & neurosurgery and orthopaedics.