Virtual support groups bring cancer patients together

February 24, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

No one should ever go through cancer alone. Cancer patients and their families can find comfort and strength in sharing their stories with others. Due to technology and having a world at our fingertips, many patients and families are looking for encouragement through online support groups and social networking sites.

With a desire to share stories, get answers about treatment, display solidarity and celebrate good news, cancer patients and caregivers often feel less isolated by being involved in a support group – whether in person or online. 

In an online support group, participants don’t even have to leave home to:

  • Receive encouragement from others
  • Be inspired by stories of accomplishment
  • Share personal experiences
  • Feel less lonely and isolated
  • Gain a sense of empowerment and control of a situation
  • Solve problems or concerns by sharing with others in a similar situation

Along with online support groups, many turn to social networking sites for a sense of togetherness. On Twitter, patients can engage in weekly chats by using hash tags that relate to their individual situation. Some examples include #bcsm (breast cancer social media), #btsm (brain tumor social media), #ayacsm (adolescent and young adult cancer societal movement), and #lcsm (lung cancer social media). On Facebook, patients can join a variety of private and public support groups based on type of cancer and geographic location.

Other peer-to-peer social networks like ihadcancer.com, American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network and Cancer Support Community enable members to connect virtually and search a forum based on type of cancer, age, gender, location, and year of diagnosis so they can find others in a similar situation. Cancer Survivors Network also hosts real-time group chats for 90 minutes each week, facilitated by specially trained professionals.

It is important to remember that not all online support groups are the same. Before you sign up for a support group, you’ll want to do a little research to make sure the site is secure and legitimate. Registration allows for extra safeguards when sharing information. Take time to find a group that’s right for you to help you throughout your journey.

Have you joined an online cancer support group? Tell us in the below comments.

Learn more about cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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