Twitter Hashtag Provides Support and Education for People with Breast Cancer

The Twitter hashtag #BCSM (“breast cancer social media”) has made it easy for people with breast cancer to find support and useful content, according to a study published in the Journal of Patient-Centered Research.

Researchers observed that between Jan 2011 (when the hashtag was established), and Jan 2020, #BCSM was used more than 830,000 times by more than 75,000 unique Twitter accounts, generating 4 billion impressions. The hashtag was used 145,600 times in 2019 alone, an increase of 424% from 2011 when it appeared 27,700 times.

“We physicians have a lot to learn from the online patient communities,” said Dr. Deanna Attai, an assistant clinical professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the lead author of the study, as one of the groups moderators, via a press release. “Tapping into this gold mine of experience will ensure that when we design research studies, we are asking questions that are actually relevant and important to patients.”

“The #BCSM online community has experienced tremendous growth since its inception because it has helped fulfill a need among patients who were searching for information and support on the platform,” said Attai, who is also a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “But it has also helped us physicians gain insight into the patient perspective and has given us a better understanding of their many issues. We often see patients in a much different setting. Compared to our exam room interactions, online is a more raw, unvarnished look into what patients are really going through.”