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Internet Forums and Emotional Health

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

The Internet has evolved a great deal in the two decades since it has found its way into people’s homes. One area which has advanced significantly is that of medicine and medical websites which allow patients access to all forms of information from those providing symptoms and treatment to the latest research on a given subject.

Along those same lines, the Internet has become home to web forums relating to almost any medical condition imaginable from hip replacements to Alzheimer’s disease.

Support or self-help groups are certainly not new, but the ways in which they can be accessed certainly are. In the past, many of these organized groups were held in churches or other businesses which would rent the space for these meetings. Many were often held in homes of concerned individuals.

For those with disabilities and/or limited transportation however, this could present a problem and these individuals could easily be left out. Also, many forms of treatment such as radiation therapy used to treat many forms of cancer can result in side effects which can prevent the patient’s physical attendance.

Research has shown the importance of being able to connect with other individuals who, having the same condition, can empathize and provide support. This can be of benefit not only for the patient but for caregivers and family members as well.

Their online existence allows for easy access at times convenient for the individual and many are organized in such a way that one can post to them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. According to an article on Health Education Research in the Oxford Journals, “... benefits that accrue from use of social support groups include enhanced quality of life, improved decision making and increased survival time.”

As a two-time cancer survivor myself I cannot over-emphasize how important these forums can be to the emotional well-being of those suffering physical illness and disease. I speak from experience when I say that often simply knowing you are not alone can do a world of good.

When I was diagnosed with my second cancer in 1992 I began by writing a book.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.