New York, Feb 2: Loved ones of cancer patients search the internet to know more about the disease but are less inclined to seek emotional support from social media fora, researchers report.
"It is fairly common for loved ones of cancer patients to develop depression or anxiety disorders as a result of the diagnosis but there aren't many studies focusing specifically on cancer patients' caregivers and family members, said Carolyn Lauckner from the University of Georgia.
"I think sometimes the loved ones and caregivers get forgotten about. And that's why I wanted to research this population to see if there are ways that we can better support these individuals," said Lauckner in a paper published in the journal Computers, Informatics, Nursing.
Lauckner surveyed 191 people whose loved ones were diagnosed with cancer in the past year or who were currently acting as caregivers to someone with cancer.
More than three-quarters of participants searched online for information on a loved one's disease.
Most looked for treatment options, prevention strategies and risk factors and prognosis information.
Respondents were less inclined to view blogs or go online to hear about others' cancer experiences as these websites were linked to negative emotions for participants such as fear, sadness and anger.
"A lot of people, especially in the cancer realm, they will use blogs or discussion posts to vent and to talk about the harsh realities of living with an illness," the author said.
"While I think that that is beneficial for both the person who is writing it and potentially for some people who want an idea of what to expect, when someone is dealing with the prospect of their loved one having to go through that experience, it can be extremely distressing," she noted.
The most commonly visited websites were those of charitable organisations like the American Cancer Society, which were associated with positive emotions.
According to Lauckner, this information encouraging because it shows that the participants were consulting reliable sources of information and not being swayed by personal accounts as much.