Social media and colorectal cancer: A systematic review of available resources

Gianluca Pellino, Constantinos Simillis, Shengyang Qiu, Shahnawaz Rasheed, Sarah Mills, Oliver Warren, Christos Kontovounisios*, Paris P. Tekkis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Social media (SM) can provide information and medical knowledge to patients. Our aim was to review the literature and web-based content on SM that is used by Colorectal Cancer (CRC) patients, as well as surgeons’ interaction with SM. Method Studies published between 2006 and 2016 were assessed. We also assessed the impact of several hashtags on Twitter with a freeware (Symplur). Results Nine studies were included assessing Twitter (78%), Forums/Cancer-survivor networks (33%), and Facebook (22%). Aims included use of SM by CRC patients (67%), cancer-specific usage of SM with different types of cancer (44%), content credibility (33%), and influence in CRC awareness (33%). Prevention was the most common information that CRC patients looked for, followed by treatment side-effects. Only 2% of CRC SM users are doctors. SM use by colorectal consultants was suboptimal. Only 38% of surgeons had a LinkedIn account (most with less than 50 connections), and 3% used Twitter. A steep increase of tweets was observed for searched Hashtags over time, which was more marked for #ColonCancer (+67%vs+38%, #Coloncancer vs #RectalCancer). Participants engaged with colon cancer increased by 85%, whereas rectal cancer ones increased by 29%. The hashtag ‘#RectalCancer’ was mostly tweeted by colorectal surgeons. The official twitter account of American Society of Colorectal Surgeons (@fascrs_updates) was the most active account. Conclusion CRC patients and relatives are increasingly engaging with SM. CRC surgeons’ participation is poor, but we confirm a trend toward a greater involvement. Most SM lack of authoritative validation and the quality of shared content still is largely anecdotic and not scientifically evidenced-based. However, SM may offer several advantages over conventional information sharing sources for CRC patients and surgeons, and create connections with mutual enrichment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0183031
Number of pages15
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


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