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The Effects of Viewing and Preferences for Online Cancer Information Among Patients’ Loved Ones

Lauckner, Carolyn PhD

CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing: January 2016 - Volume 34 - Issue 1 - p 37–46
doi: 10.1097/CIN.0000000000000204

Emotional and psychological distress is common among loved ones of cancer patients, who sometimes report more severe mental health issues than the patients themselves. In addition, many loved ones feel as though their information needs are not being met, which can lead them to seek out additional information online. This survey research examined the experiences of cancer patients’ loved ones in viewing online content about the disease and the emotional outcomes of such browsing sessions. Participants (N = 191) were recruited from cancer- and caregiver-related nonprofits and online discussion boards. Results indicated that patients’ loved ones were active users of online cancer Web sites. They primarily viewed and expressed a desire for information-based, rather than support-based, content. Many individuals desired in-depth treatment information, and those who viewed it had significantly more hope. Interestingly, multiple regression analysis revealed that viewing user-generated content was associated only with negative emotions, illustrating the potential dangers of social media spaces. Overall, this study shows the need for supporting patients’ loved ones during their almost inevitable viewings of online cancer information. More research is needed in order to determine the best methods of mitigating potential negative effects of cancer Web sites and developing a useful online resource for this population.

Author Affiliation: Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens.

This research was funded by an internal research grant from Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

Corresponding author: Carolyn Lauckner, PhD, 321B Wright Hall, 100 Foster Rd, Athens, GA 30602 (

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.