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Cancer Patients Use Twitter to Connect Online

CancerWise - June 2008

By Darcy De Leon

When you have cancer and need support from others, but lack the energy to make phone calls or send e-mails, how do you stay connected?

Many cancer patients and caregivers are doing it through Twitter, a free microblog in which users write 140-character blog posts known as “tweets.”

How it works

All that’s required is creating a username and password. A person can then invite friends to join Twitter and follow his or her tweets. The updates can be public or private.

Twitter suggests users answer the question, “What are you doing?” For people touched by cancer this might include major or mundane posts, ranging from results of medical tests to descriptions of what they had for lunch.

Building a community of support

For Susan Reynolds (, who's fighting a rare form of breast cancer known as invasive lobular carcinoma, Twitter has been a vehicle for cancer awareness and support.

She described the latter in a January blog post that links to a Washington Post article about her.

Twitter has relieved the boredom and isolation of cancer treatment for Susan Niebur, ( The mother of two is an inflammatory breast cancer survivor and the blogger behind Toddler Planet.

“Twitter has been a lifeline for me,” she says. “I have spent many days lying in bed recovering from chemotherapy or radiation with only blogs and tweets to keep me company, but I've truly been in the company of good friends.”

Twitter has helped Austin, Texas, blogger Joyce Davis demystify a large cancer center where her father is being treated for melanoma. Davis twittered about her dad having an appointment at M. D. Anderson in March, then saw a tweet by an
M. D. Anderson employee, and they began to communicate. Davis learned that the cancer center had launched a Twitter page for CancerWise. There also are Twitter pages for the institution's online newsroom and its Department of Physician Relations.

She also discovered the personal Twitter pages of another M. D. Anderson employee and began communicating with her.

“Since they posted comments on Twitter about their non-work life, too, it makes our connection seem more personal,” says Davis ( “So many times, a large institution can feel cold and impersonal, but my connection with them reminds me that M. D. Anderson is filled with real, caring people, with real families and common issues, concerns and feelings. I find that comforting.”


M. D. Anderson Twitter pages:

Other cancer-related Twitter pages:

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center