Three Healthy Ways to Navigate the Internet While Coping with a Lymphoma Diagnosis

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Three Healthy Ways to Navigate the Internet While Coping with a Lymphoma Diagnosis

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, isolated or unsure where to turn. Greater access to new technologies has increased the use of the internet as a source of health-related information. Here are some ways lymphoma patients, survivors and caregivers can best navigate the internet for information, emotional and social support needs.

Peer Support

Although it is the most common type of blood cancer, lymphoma is a complex disease with more than 100 subtypes. Many navigating a lymphoma diagnosis may never meet another lymphoma patient or survivor in their community, let alone someone with the same subtype. Peer support is considered an effective way of providing social and emotional support during treatment and survivorship, and communities allow individuals to support one another from wherever they are without the challenges of physically attending support groups. Online communities enable individuals to send messages to fellow survivors by posting questions, answers, information, and resources to a shared space. According to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior, online cancer communities regularly contain expressions (empathetic statements, displays of warmth, virtual offers of physical affection such as hugs) that could support individuals’ self-esteem and meet the needs for information and emotional support. It is important to note that because a cancer diagnosis can cause a wide range of emotional sequelae and many online communities do not have a trained specialist for support, members of these communities should take precautions in curating information or developing false expectations concerning their illness.

Accessing Information to Guide Decision Making

A diagnosis or relapse for lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) often leads patients and their caregivers to sift through a complex network of information. In a study published in Cancer Nursing, participants described feeling confident with the information found on the internet if they read the same thing in multiple places and if it came from a reputable organization. In addition to searching for disease information, patients and their caregivers may use the internet to find oncologists for a second opinion or reading oncologist reviews.

Professionally Guided Internet Use

Professionally guided internet use is an educational and support intervention initiated by a member of the healthcare team. Patients and their caregivers are referred to websites, chat groups and apps with reliable health information or managed by a specialist, mitigating the possibility of receiving inaccurate information. According to a study published in Psycho-Oncology, patients benefit from online resources, especially when they and their healthcare team increase their engagement with online interventions such as integrated systems or online communities. The internet can strengthen the relationship between physicians and patients through this method and empower patients throughout their journey.

Sources:
“Difference Among Breast and Prostate Cancer Online Support Groups.” Computers in Human Behavior. 2010.
“Managing Cancer Experiences: An Interpretive Description Study of Internet Information Use.” Cancer Nursing. 2019.
“A Systematic and Comprehensive Review of Internet Use in Cancer Patients: Psychological Factors.” Psycho-Oncology. 2019.

Healthy Ways to Interact with the Internet

Learn more about healthy ways to interact with the internet with Dr. Giselle Perez-Lougee (Massachusetts General Hospital) at LRF’s Virtual Educational Forum on Lymphoma, taking place October 15-17, 2021.