Introduction: Social media is a known platform through which cancer patients receive social support and information about their diagnosis and treatment. However, there is a current gap in objective evaluation methods for studying the sources and quality of online cancer information that patients view. We examined the feasibility of web-monitoring, typically used by businesses to monitor remote employee productivity, to quantify the types of information sources used for general cancer information and information about diagnosis and treatment among cancer patients.
Methods: We surveyed n=48 cancer patients aged 18 and older. After completing the baseline survey, participants underwent one-month of web-monitoring. After the baseline and the web-monitoring period, a follow-up survey (n=12) was sent to evaluate each patient's experience with the software (data collection is ongoing). Descriptive statistics of survey responses were calculated in Stata 18.
Results: Of respondents, 60.9% were male, and all had an associate degree or higher. Less than 10% of patients received information from healthcare providers when searching online for general cancer information, information about their own diagnosis, and information about their treatment. At follow-up, all patients who had completed the study felt comfortable using the web-monitoring software and none felt uncomfortable with the software being on their personal device. An equal number of respondents felt online cancer information and social media outreach is helpful as compared to those who expressed they rarely have interactions online.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that most online cancer information does not come from healthcare providers. Web-monitoring was suitable to patients for improving measurement and description of cancer misinformation exposure online. These findings support the use of web-monitoring to study online cancer misinformation exposure.