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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. During that same time I also developed a website to provide information on human papillomavirus, or HPV, now known to be responsible for six various cancers. I have recently expanded this website to include perhaps one of its most important aspects, a forum.

I have long contributed to other forums and have developed quite a following. Now I function not only as a member of my forum but also as its moderator. It is truly one of the most rewarding experiences, being able to help someone else simply for the sake of doing so.

Unfortunately doctors often fail to recognize the need to address the patient’s emotional needs and that it is often as important as the physical. This does not however indicate a need for a therapist or counselor. Often, simply knowing that there is someone else who shares a similar situation to your own, and therefore you are not alone, is all it takes.

If you have HPV or any HPV-related dysplasia and/or cancer please look into our forum. We encourage you to share your story with others because in doing so, not only do you help yourself but you help them as well. The forum can be reached through our website at: thehpvsupportnetwork.org


"5 Benefits of joining online OCD Support Groups and Forums - Healthy Living on Shine." Shine: Fashion and Beauty, Healthy Living, Parenting, Sex and Love, Career and Money, Food, and more - Shine on Yahoo! N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.

"Receiving social support online: implications for health education." Oxford Journals | Medicine | Health Education Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. http://her.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/6/693.full

Reviewed October 12, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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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.