Prostate cancer and social media

Abstract

The use of social media is increasing globally and is employed in a variety of ways in the prostate cancer community. In addition to their use in research, advocacy, and awareness campaigns, social media offer vast opportunities for education and networking for patients with prostate cancer and health-care professionals, and many educational resources and support networks are available to patients with prostate cancer and their caregivers. Despite the considerable potential for social media to be employed in the field of prostate cancer, concerns remain — particularly regarding the maintenance of patient confidentiality, variable information quality, and possible financial conflicts of interest. A number of professional societies have, therefore, issued guidance regarding social media use in medicine. Social media are used extensively in other cancer communities, particularly among patients with breast cancer, and both the quantity and type of information available are expected to grow in the future.

Key points

  • Social media are employed in various ways in the prostate cancer community, including research, advocacy, education, networking for patients and health-care professionals, and support for patients and their caregivers.

  • Although the use of social media, especially Twitter, in the prostate cancer community has been steadily increasing, it still lags behind the use in other cancers, especially breast cancer.

  • Most major medical meetings now have their own hashtag, and standardized hashtags have also been created for particular disease states through the Urology Tag Ontology Project.

  • Online journal clubs hosted on Twitter enable real-time discussion of new research and sharing of information and experiences regardless of geographical location and time zone.

  • A number of concerns remain regarding social media use, particularly around maintenance of patient confidentiality, variable information quality, and possible financial conflicts of interest.

  • Some institutions or departments have specific restrictions or policies on social media to encourage professional and appropriate use, and guidelines for proper use of social media have been produced by professional societies including the American Urological Association and European Association of Urology.

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Fig. 1: The varied roles of social media.
Fig. 2: Examples of social media use in prostate cancer.
Fig. 3: Comparison of Twitter activity related to breast cancer and prostate cancer using Symplur data from 2012 to 2016.

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Acknowledgements

S.L. is supported by a Young Investigator Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Blank Family Foundation.

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All authors researched data for the article and made substantial contributions to discussion of content. S.L. and S.C. wrote the manuscript, and all authors reviewed and edited the manuscript before submission.

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Correspondence to Stacy Loeb.

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S.L. has received honoraria from Astellas and MDxHealth, consulting fees from GE, GenomeDx, and Lilly, and reimbursed travel from Sanofi and Astellas.

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Loeb, S., Katz, M.S., Langford, A. et al. Prostate cancer and social media. Nat Rev Urol 15, 422–429 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41585-018-0006-0

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