Social listening research shows women and men talk differently online about cancer

Health care needs in older people

Breast cancer patients and prostate cancer patients talk very differently about their cancer online and receive significantly different levels of online support, according to social listening research* commissioned by Teva Pharmaceuticals Europe and published ahead of World Cancer Day on Saturday, 4th February. Based on this research, Teva has launched an online cancer portal called My Day ( that aims to help cancer patients and their caregivers learn about their condition, connect with their online support community, and have productive discussions with their physicians. The website, named ‘My Day’ to reflect the unique journey each cancer patient experiences, is guided by an independent, medical advisory board to ensure the portal provides content of value to cancer patients and their physicians.

  • Research identified over 20,000 online cancer conversations over the past 3 years
  • Analysis shows prostate cancer patients focus on ‘technical details’ while breast cancer patients make greater use of ‘emotional’ language – pointing to differences in progression, diagnosis and treatment of these two cancers
  • Research also reveals women with breast cancer receive significantly less online support than men with prostate cancer
  • Teva launches ‘My Day’ online cancer portal to support patients in their online cancer conversations

These differences between breast and prostate cancer conversations may partly be attributed to differences in the progression, diagnosis and treatments of these two types of cancer. Prostate cancer is typically treated with a watch-and-wait approach, delaying time to prostatectomy to preserve quality of life for as long as possible without risking the cancer metastasizing to other parts of the body.

Furthermore, prostate cancer patients often have access to a urologist as well as an oncologist to further ‘crowd-source’ their knowledge and ideas about the best treatment path forward. Based on the social listening research, prostate cancer patients appeared to trust themselves to collate this ‘crowd-sourced’ information from their peers and medical specialists and to partner with their physician to make the right treatment decision. Also, unlike with other types of cancer, prostate cancer patients have relatively concrete assessment tools – such as Gleason scores and the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test – that help men recognise the points at which it’s time to make a treatment decision. These concrete tools also provide prostate cancer patients with common ‘data points’ they can refer to in sharing their stories online with fellow patients.

However, for breast cancer patients, the complexity of tumour types and the lack of relatively simple assessment tools may make it more difficult for women to share ‘technical details’ of their cancer online. Women with breast cancer often reported they were not told by their healthcare professionals the path forward and that they were surprised by secondary treatments prescribed without forewarning. The breast cancer discussions indicated physicians frequently recommended unilateral mastectomies followed by hormone treatment or chemotherapy. Breast cancer patients did also go online to crowd-source potential treatment decisions when a physician did not seem clear enough or said something that sounded ‘off’, and expressed a desire to use that information to partner with their physicians. If breast cancer patients gave voice to fears or anger within their online community, they warned peers that they’re going to speak in negative terms. By contrast, they frequently reminded peers to ‘stay positive’.

Patients and their caregivers are playing a more direct role in managing their health, with social listening conversations and discussions happening more and more online. Connecting with fellow patients and caregivers in virtual online communities can be a source of comfort – but it can also impact discussions with physicians, when online peers advocate unfounded treatments. Understanding the types of cancer conversations happening online is key to helping healthcare professionals have productive, face-to-face conversations with their patients.”

The European cancer portal MyDay was launched in late 2016 with local language versions of the portal being launched in individual European countries during the course of 2017.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *