Psychological aspects of women with breast cancer who use the Internet
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Many websites on the Internet offer information to breast cancer patients and are increasingly being used for information with which to make informed choices. This study occurred between October and December 2000, where 251 women with breast cancer were approached and 188 were successfully interviewed (74.9%). The prevalence and predictors, the potential psychological benefits, and the varied impact as a function of race/ethnicity among white, African American, and Hispanic American breast cancer patients who use the Internet for medical information related to breast health issues was investigated. Regression analysis with demographic predictors showed that Internet users for breast health issues had a higher income and tended to be more educated than non-users. There was also a suggestion that those of minority race/ethnicity were less likely to use the Internet. Increasing age, length of time since diagnosis, and breast cancer stage had no effect. Forty-two percent of the 188 women interviewed used the Internet for medical information related to breast health issues, an average of 0.80 hours per week. After controlling for covariates, Internet use for breast health issues was associated with greater social support than Internet use for other purposes or non-use. No differences for Internet use were observed for state measures of depressive symptoms, stress, loneliness, and coping. Internet use was associated with psychological benefits for breast cancer patients with only a minimal weekly time commitment. As measured by the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL), Internet use among minorities was associated with greater overall, appraisal, and tangible social support than among whites. No differences were observed for belonging and self-esteem social support, state measures of depressive symptoms, stress, loneliness, and coping between minorities and whites. Since numerous studies suggest that social support may be related to survival, Internet use for breast health issues may have clinical relevance in addition to its beneficial impact on quality of life.