People affected by cancer—including patients, survivors, advocates, and health care providers—can use social media to raise awareness and create support networks. Twitter and other social media play a big role in fostering online communities for people to find support, share information or experiences, and cope with the challenges that come with cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
A tweet chat, or organized conversation on Twitter, allows Twitter users to meet online at a preplanned time to discuss a topic. Participants include a specific hashtag—a pound sign (#) followed by a word or phrase (without spaces) indicating the chat’s topic or organizing group—in their tweets to contribute to the discussion.
Tweet chats include moderators who keep the conversation going by asking questions and encouraging replies. Conversations aimed at patients and other individuals concerned about or affected by cancer cover topics such as diagnosis, emotional support, treatments, resources, and survivorship.
Most Twitter accounts hosting a tweet chat will post rules on their account or accompanying Web site. Here are some tips on participating in a tweet chat:
- create a Twitter account at www.twitter.com;
- include the identified hashtag in a post so it becomes part of the chat;
- preface a question or answer, respectively, with Q1, Q2 or A1, A2, and so forth;
- retweet (forward a tweet using the retweet button or copy and paste the tweet and username into a draft of a new tweet) a question or answer that interests you if it gets lost in the quick pace of the conversation; and
- keep posts 140 characters or fewer as Twitter has a character limit.
Social media accounts
Below are Twitter accounts (which begin with an @ symbol) and hashtags that patients and those affected by various types of cancer may find useful. The hashtags shown are used during the groups’ tweet chats or at any time for posts related to their topic. The hashtags also can be used to find posts related to the topic on Facebook and Instagram.
Brain Tumor Social Media (@BTSM chat, #BTSM) is a patient-run Twitter community offering patients support and the latest information on brain tumor research. The #BTSM tweet chat occurs at 8 pm central time (CT) on the first Sunday of each month.
#BrainTumorThursday is a separate hashtag that often appears alongside #BTSM. Though #BrainTumorThursday doesn’t have its own organized tweet chat, every Thursday people use the hashtag to post new information, questions, and experiences related to brain tumors.
Breast Cancer Social Media (@BCSMchat, #BCSM) offers support, information, and the latest research pertaining to the disease. Two survivors of breast cancer founded the #BCSM community with the idea that social media could be used to “unite, educate, and empower those affected by breast cancer.” The #BCSM tweet chat occurs at 8 pm CT every Monday.
Lung Cancer Social Media (@LCSMchat, #LCSM) doesn’t use endorsements or advertisements and therefore claims to provide a neutral voice for patients. The group’s Web site, www.lcsmchat.com, includes transcripts of past tweet chats and a schedule with the topic for the upcoming tweet chat. The #LCSM tweet chat occurs at 7 pm CT every other Thursday.
Cancer in young adults
Stupid Cancer (@StupidCancer, #StupidCancer) was founded by a survivor of brain cancer to build a community, improve the quality of life, and provide meaningful survivorship for young adults who are cancer patients or survivors. The group’s Web site, www.stupidcancer.org, defines young adult patients as those 15–39 years old. Stupid Cancer also has a mobile app called Instapeer, which enables patients to instantly and anonymously connect with each other one-on-one.
Other cancer-related topics
The easiest way to find an organized tweet chat, informal conversation, or post about cancer or a cancer-related topic is to search the subject prefaced by a hashtag and without spaces (e.g., #prostatecancer for prostate cancer) on Twitter or other social media platforms. A useful Web site is www.symplur.com, which provides a platform for healthcare communities and allows users to search for specific healthcare hashtags. If you can’t locate a group that addresses your interests, perhaps you can create the group yourself.
OncoLog, January 2017, Volume 62, Issue 1