|LETTER TO THE EDITOR
|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 1042
Pros and cons of using Facebook in pediatric oncology
Carlo A Clerici1, Maura Massimino2, Laura Veneroni3, Andrea Ferrari2
1 Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan; Clinical Psychology Unit, IRCCS Foundation of the National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy
2 Pediatric Oncology Unit, IRCCS Foundation of the National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy
3 Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan; Pediatric Oncology Unit, IRCCS Foundation of the National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy
|Date of Web Publication||15-Feb-2016|
Pediatric Oncology Unit, IRCCS Foundation of the National Cancer Institute, Via G. Venezian, 1, 20133 Milan
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Clerici CA, Massimino M, Veneroni L, Ferrari A. Pros and cons of using Facebook in pediatric oncology. J Can Res Ther 2015;11:1042
Internet and social networks like Facebook have changed the way people communicate, especially young people. They may also change relations between health professionals and users, making it difficult to keep private and professional lives separate, but they may be hugely useful for adolescent cancer patients. Disease severely risks isolating adolescent patients socially. Facebook can help young people who are ill to keep in touch with friends and schoolmates, ensuring this continuity with their own social world which is crucially important at this age.
Facebook makes it easier for such adolescents to make friends with other patients and to stay in touch with people outside the hospital. This is a good thing, but carries inherent risks too: Our patients may exchange information about the (possibly unfavorable) clinical course of a disease, also misunderstanding about therapies effects programs, or announce a patient's death. Disease and death are no longer private, but public events, and there is generally no way to filter such information, which is often shared virtually in real time. News circulated in this way may contrast with the legitimate need for some patients not to know about the unfavorable others' outcomes—also to avoid the risk of identification (”I'll be next”). Then there is the risk of patients or families using Facebook to obtain clinical opinions or treatment recommendations outside the appropriate institutional setting. Then there is the issue of clinicians' privacy: Having a window open onto health operators' private worlds can create a false sense of intimacy and weaken their role.
As part of our Youth Project (scheme for adolescent patients with projects relating to fashion, music and sports, activities designed to help patients adapt to their disease and treatment), we also have a Facebook platform for exchanges between adolescent patients and dedicated operators (physicians, social workers, psychologists, teachers, activity organizers). In addition to facilitating communications and participation in our projects, Facebook has been useful in understanding the circulation of misleading or inappropriate information, or identifying adolescents' psychological issues, enabling clinicians to take corrective action (e.g. personal interviews or discussion groups). In short, despite the related risks and lack of rules to help us manage it, we feel that Facebook could be a valuable asset in pediatric oncology. Operators should learn to use their patients' communication systems and languages, though always bearing in mind that virtual media should be used to sustain, not to supplant face-to-face personal interactions.
| > References|| |
Ferrari A, Clerici CA, Casanova M, Luksch R, Terenziani M, Spreafico F, et al
. The Youth Project at the Istituto Nazionale Tumori in Milan. Tumori 2012;98:399-407.