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J Behav Med. 2004 Oct;27(5):491-505.

Use of the internet for information and support: disclosure among persons with breast and prostate cancer.

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Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research, School of Public Health and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-6900, USA.


The present study examined the feasibility of evaluating online communication of cancer patients using an automated content analysis program modified for application to cancer-related communication. Public messages posted to the Breast Cancer Discussion List and the Prostate Problems Mailing List were content analyzed uasing an augmented version of Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count to evaluate communication styles within these two cancer types. Breast cancer patients were more likely to submit multiple messages to the list and made greater use of words related to emotional disclosure and cognitive processing compared with prostate cancer patients. Prostate cancer patients were less likely to seek emotional support or repeated interaction with other patients, and more of their communication focused on cancer-related information. Use of cancer-specific word libraries significantly increased word identification within these samples. Content analysis of online communication appears to be a promising method for detecting communication differences among subgroups of cancer patients.

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