The purpose of the study was to describe why Finnish cancer patients choose the internet as a source of social support. The data were collected in May 2010, using an online questionnaire with open-ended questions, through four discussion forums on the websites of the non-profit Cancer Society of Finland. Seventy-four adult patients with cancer participated. The data were analysed using inductive content analysis. The mean age of the participants was 53 years and they were predominantly women. The most common cancer was breast cancer and more than three quarters of the participants had suffered from cancer for less than 5 years. The initial stimuli to use the internet as a source of social support were the ease of communication and access to information as well as the need for emotional and informational support. The actual motives that drove the use of the internet as a source of social support were the requirements for information and peer support, internet technology, a lack of support outside the internet and the negative experiences caused by the illness. The fact that there is an enormous need for information as well as for emotional support and that cancer treatment in Finland is concentrated in major hospitals, to which cancer patients may travel a considerable distance, suggests that nurses should learn to make more frequent virtual contact with their patients.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.