Information in practiceHow the internet affects patients’ experience of cancer: a qualitativestudySue Ziebland, Alison Chapple, Carol Dumelow, Julie Evans, Suman Prinjha, Linda RozmovitsAbstractObjectiveTo explore how men and women with cancer talkabout using the internet.DesignQualitative study using semistructured interviewscollected by maximum variation sampling.SettingRespondents recruited throughout the UnitedKingdom during 2001-2.Participants175 men and women aged 19-83 years, with oneof five cancers (prostate, testicular, breast, cervical, or bowel)diagnosed since 1992 and selected to include different stages oftreatment and follow up.ResultsInternet use, either directly or via friend or family, waswidespread and reported by patients at all stages of cancer care,from early investigations to follow up after treatment. Patientsused the internet to find second opinions, seek support andexperiential information from other patients, interpretsymptoms, seek information about tests and treatments, helpinterpret consultations, identify questions for doctors, makeanonymous private inquiries, and raise awareness of the cancer.Patients also used it to check their doctors’ advice covertly andto develop an expertise in their cancer. This expertise, reflectingfamiliarity with computer technology and medical terms,enabled patients to present a new type of “social fitness.”
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