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Variety of Breast Cancer Patients Turn to Web for Support

Age, income didn't predict who'd use online resources, study found

THURSDAY, Feb. 2, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests a wide range of women take advantage of online support groups after they've been diagnosed wth breast cancer.

Neither age, income nor education predicted whether or not breast cancer patients would use these forums, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the study, the researchers provided free computer hardware, Internet access, and training on how to use an online health education and support system to 144 women who'd recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. The women had access for six months, and the researchers tracked who was most likely to use online support groups.

They found that socioeconomic status did not generally predict a woman's participation in online support groups.

The groups did seem to work, however: Those women who made the most use of online support were more likely to report higher energy levels, a more positive doctor-patient relationship, fewer concerns about breast cancer, and higher perceptions of support from their families.

The researchers said they were surprised that physical, social and psychological factors had such a strong influence on the women's use of online support groups. They concluded that women who are closer to family and friends feel they have more to lose from breast cancer and, therefore, are more inclined to discuss their feelings with others.

"What women often wrote about their fears was that breast cancer might cut short their time to enjoy family and be around for important milestones as their children grow older. It appeared that the closer a woman felt to her family or larger social network, the more she feared her potential separation from them as a result of breast cancer," study author Bret Shaw said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers these breast cancer resources.

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison, news release, Jan. 18, 2006
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