Resident Physician Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Background: Adolescents and young adults (AYA) are prolific social media (SM) users. Little is known about how AYAs with cancer use SM.
Objective: To characterize SM use (frequency, platforms, content) and self-reported positive and negative experiences on SM among AYA with cancer.
Design/Methods: AYAs with cancer aged 12-26 years and receiving care at a single pediatric cancer center completed a 28-item survey about SM use, including two open-ended questions regarding positive and negative SM experiences, in October and November of 2020. Diagnostic, prognostic, and treatment data were obtained from the electronic medical record. Survey data and open-ended items were analyzed with descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis, respectively. Two qualitative researchers oversaw the coding process and adjudicated discrepancies.
Results: Data was obtained from 39 participants, with average age 16.4 (SD = 3.2) years. Most participants were male (21/39, 54%) and Caucasian (34/39, 87%). Diagnoses included leukemia/lymphoma (22/39, 56%), solid tumors (13/39, 33%) and brain tumors (4/39, 10%). About 44% (17/39) had <50% estimated overall survival per their oncologist. Nearly all (38/39, 97%) used SM, with Smartphone data indicating an average SM use of 3.5 (SD = 1.4) hours/day. YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram were the most popular platforms. Participants reported they used SM to obtain information about their cancer (17/38, 45%), post about their cancer experience (18/38, 47%), and read about others’ cancer experiences (19/38, 50%). Nearly a third of respondents reported making a friend with cancer through SM (12/38, 32%). Qualitative content analysis revealed mostly positive SM experiences, such as feelings of support related to their cancer (20/37, 54%) and community (10/37, 27%). Others reported SM as a desired distraction from their cancer or as a source of inspiration (3/37, 8%). Most participants (28/36, 78%) reported no negative experiences with SM; however, 6/36 (17%) reported online bullying related to their cancer. Conclusion(s): AYAs with cancer are avid SM users who mostly report it creates a sense of support and community. Some report online bullying. These data underscore an opportunity for AYA oncology providers to enhance positive and avoid negative aspects of SM by asking about and providing guidance for SM use.
Authors/Institutions: Hannah Reuman, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Katherine Kerr, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Jaime Sidani, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; James Felker, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Cesar Escobar-Viera, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Ariel Shensa, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Scott H. Maurer, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States