FROM THE EXPERTS
PHO TO COUR TES Y OF SUSAN BRO WN
SUSAN BROWN: If your old friend has posted
news of the diagnosis to Facebook or some
other social media outlet, it’s safe to assume
she’s comfortable discussing it in this venue. If
you learned of it some other way—via a mutual
friend, for example—you should proceed much
Being diagnosed with cancer can cause people
to feel detached from their peers. Undergoing
treatment can leave people isolated for more
practical reasons—especially if it involves travel.
Facebook and other forms of social media provide
an opportunity to reduce those feelings of isolation. Some of the ways we used to show support
to friends in tough times, like sending a card or
dropping by, can now be done using technology.
Social media has the potential to serve as a critical source of emotional and psychosocial support.
It doesn’t take much effort to “like” a post sharing
good news about your friend’s treatment or prognosis, but it could really make a difference.
Keep in mind that the same rules of cancer
etiquette apply on social media as elsewhere in
life. Avoid comments such as “things happen
for a reason” or “I know just what you are going
through.” Encouraging or empathetic words are
generally helpful, but I recommend caution in
offering unsolicited advice.
Scrolling through comments on social media is
comforting for many people. We often hear from
patients about how important those messages are
to them while sitting in a chemotherapy infusion
lab or while awake in the middle of the night.
Even if you don’t get an immediate response, or
perhaps any direct response at all, that doesn’t
mean your support isn’t helpful and appreciated.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND CANCER // CancerConnect is a social network
specifically for people with cancer. cancerconnect.com // Cancer.Net
provides a list of common hashtags to help Twitter users share their
experiences and advice with one another. cancer.net/blog/2017-08/cancer-
and-social-media-how-can-we-use-it-improve-care // The University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center highlights Twitter chats and online
groups for patients and caregivers. mdanderson.org/publications/oncolog/
Senior Director of Education and Patient
Support at Susan G. Komen in Dallas
I SAW ON SOCIAL MEDIA THAT AN OLD FRIEND
I HAVEN’T SPOKEN TO IN YEARS HAS CANCER.