Making Sense of Child Cancer Awareness on Social Media

Social media users can dictate the terms of conversations when they want to throughout the course of everyday life, but that can change in an instant when it comes to health issues. Parents and children that have been using social media can have their daily escape from reality, changed when a diagnosis of cancer is handed down and the conversation turns from vacations and school to treatment and survival. When this happens, communities discussing child cancer sprout up and evolve. This listicle and eventual report will look at the conversations surrounding awareness conversations of child cancer awareness on social media.

Some studies have examined social media support groups for children (see Coulson & Greenwood, 2011) while others are searching for answers around what makes cancer information and discussions go viral (Wang, et. al, 2019). This listicle will lean on these published reports for background surrounding the studies of childhood cancer on social media. It will also explore the differences between conversations of cancer in children versus adult forms of cancer. In turn, similar conversations around what types of social media platforms are used to have and drive these discussions regarding child cancer awareness also will be noted (Rehman, et. al, 2018). This listicle and research will help lay the groundwork for our eventual research questions and subsequent study.

#1 Going viral

Social media has the potential to be an incredible means of distributing information on a mass scale. However, simply saturating a platform with posts does not mean they will be shared or reach the intended audience. In looking at how to reach this large audience, it is first important to what types of posts are shared. A review of posts from China found that most people tend to share positive or supportive emotional messages. This is in contrast to a common belief among health communicators that fear is an effective strategy of promoting cancer prevention.

#2 Social Media and the Adolescent Patient with Cancer

This post analyzes the emotions and intentions behind social media postings by young adults with cancer. It also tries to identify what types of cancers affect young adults and how things can change based on the diagnosis. Online resources and accounts are also examined to see how they help certain patients.

#3 Online support for families impacted by childhood cancer

This article examines the supports available for families who have been and are currently being impacted by childhood cancer. During the study five types of support emerged consistently, all of which are integral to families feeling connected to one another by empathy versus sympathy

#4 Crowdfunding – is it ethical?

Cancer is expensive. In addition to the cost of treatment itself, there is the financial burden of a parent having to take off work, or a family having to move closer to a hospital. Medical crowdfunding has emerged in recent years as a way for people to cover the costs associated with cancer and cancer treatment. In 2014, GoFundMe hosted 600,000 campaigns, raising US$150 million. However, there are a number of ethical concerns. Among these are the fraudulent campaigns, set up “on behalf” of a patient’s family, but the family never sees a dime.

#5 Social Media: Support for survivors and young adults with cancer

This post finds ways for those with cancer to communicate. It also examines the posting habits of survivors. This also shows tools like Post Hope and Care Pages and how they can help young adults with care.

#6 Recreating identities: after cancer treatment, who are you?

This study examines how the process of from diagnosis to treatment and eventual remission impacts a persons self-image. Through a social media intervention, cancer survivors were given the tools and platform to begin to rebuild and recreate their identities via video messages and blog posts. This community of survivors uncovered stereotypes and similarities across all ages.

#7 Increasing cancer awareness in 280 characters or less

A public health journal studies the frequency of tweets across genders and ethic backgrounds in relation to cancer-related topics. It proved that these exchanges disseminated critical health information related to prevention, screening, and treatment in a real-time capacity. The study was able to categorize the top cancers mentioned as well as those very low on the radar.

#8 Finding support through social networking

After a cancer diagnosis, caregivers are overwhelmed with questions and information. In this position, they often turn to social media, seeking support or information from other caregivers who have been in a similar position. In doing so, caretakers increase their social support and effectively manage their stress and anxiety. Additionally, if nurses are able to understand what caretakers are gaining from these social interactions they may be able to better care for the caretakers informational and emotional needs.

#9 Motives for sharing illness experiences on Twitter

This journal submission shows tweets of parents posting on Twitter during their child’s cancer treatment. It also discusses how some are taking to Twitter to actively search for information about support and forms of treatment. This entry also tries to find motives in the way parents use Twitter during times of trouble or uncertainity.

#10 Acquisition of Social Support & Linguistics of YA Cancer

This journal entry examines how young adults write about cancer diagnosis. This post also studies the #YoungAdultCancer and examines the likes that posts get. Finally, this entry examines how support varies via Instagram and what supportive language can do for patients.

#11 Caregivers of School-aged Children, Autism & Social Media Use

This entry can be used as a comparison for how social media caregivers and parents caring for children with autism can be similar or different to those with cancer. Examining how the autism community operates can be helpful especially when finding what works and what doesn’t work.

#12 How to use social media for cervical cancer prevention

Reaching the intended audience is one of the largest obstacles to health campaigns. A recent study has found that despite anecdotal and observational evidence suggesting that personal experiences are likely to be effective (in audience reach through shares) factual messages are more likely to be shared than personal experiences. Additionally, posts by organizations get more traction than those by individuals.

#13 Caregivers use social media to cope, update, disseminate

It was discovered that parents and caregivers of children with cancer find social media as a positive tool in coping with their child’s diagnosis. These adults use social media in order to update family, friends, and loved ones, to gain access to alternative and additional information, and to build communities of support. Caregivers of children with cancer expressed, online, a need for emotional support during the ups and downs of treatment.

#14 Pink Washing & Breast Cancer Awareness

Understanding why children’s cancer garners so much attention on social media requires readers to also examine why adults cancers, and specifically breast cancer, gets the most public support. Some call it ‘pink washing’, others explain it away by noting the sheer volume of diagnosis, but what is important is it gets discussed more overall in comparison to cancers that impact males.

#15 Social media or no?

Social media has the potential to be an incredible resource for cancer patients and caretakers. However there are also risks, to include misinformation or financial exploitation. Oncologists have a responsibility to point patients and caretakers in the right direction and provide them with best practices. It is also to be cognizant of the sheer amount of information available and the possibility of information overload.

#16 Informed consent group outweighs consent form

This article highlights a study completed to prove the viability of children’s cancer patient informed consent groups in place of the consent form. The consent group included hospital professionals and a two-way dialogue. This study proved a higher feeling of emotional stability and calm for parents/guardians when they participated in the informed group consent, where they were able to openly ask questions about their child’s upcoming potential treatment. The aim of this group was to remove some of the internet searching and the results that come with it, which often occurs when a parent receives a shocking diagnosis about their child.


Author: Morgan

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