"Others Like Me". An Approach to the Use of the Internet and Social Networks in Adolescents and Young Adults Diagnosed with Cancer

J Cancer Educ. 2017 Dec;32(4):885-891. doi: 10.1007/s13187-016-1055-9.


The purpose of this study is to improve comprehension about how adolescents and young adults (AYA) diagnosed with cancer use the Internet and social networks to seek information about their illness and to establish relationships between them. A group of 20 AYA patients and survivors of cancer (ages 14 to 29) were interviewed from a qualitative approach. Most of the respondents (N = 16) sought information about their disease on the Internet. They looked for information using search engines (mainly Google) and general concepts as their own cancer name. In general, they did not share the information obtained with their parents or professional healthcare providers. The interviewees think that the information is difficult to understand because of jargon and that it is not aimed at a young audience. All (N = 20) have presence in social networking sites. AYAs with cancer are starting to create content themselves: three started a blog in order to explain their experience to others like them. The study shows that is necessary to increase efforts on adapting content to these age groups in order to help them learn more about their own disease. This may contribute to increment their adherence to treatment and to maintain surveillance of potential consequences and health problems post-treatment.

Keywords: AYAs with cancer; Adolescent cancer; Health communication; Patient engagement; Social networks.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comprehension*
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Communication
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Parents
  • Social Networking*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult