Millions of women are turning to the social media platform TikTok for health advice related to gynecologic cancers. However, according to a study conducted The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the majority of the information found on TikTok regarding these cancers is misleading or dramatically inaccurate. The study’s senior author, Laura Chambers, warns that this highlights the power of social media to spread harmful misinformation that could negatively impact patient health outcomes.
Chambers was particularly interested in understanding the concerns of her patients, many of whom are mothers and young women. She wanted to know how they were using social media, what information they were sharing, and how they were consuming that information. The goal of the study was to address gaps in care that often remain unspoken in the clinic but can have a significant impact on patient well-being.
The research team analyzed the top five hashtags for each gynecologic cancer on TikTok, including ovarian, endometrial, cervical, and vulvar cancers, as well as gestational trophoblastic disease. They found that at least 73% of the content related to gynecologic cancers was inaccurate and of poor educational quality. Furthermore, racial disparities in gynecologic cancer extended into the social media space.
The study’s findings raise important questions about how to address these inaccuracies and communicate with patients directly. Chambers emphasizes the need to provide a care environment that fosters trust and enables real conversations with patients. Additionally, the medical community should strive to provide quality health information and support services to patients seeking information about gynecologic cancers.
Chambers suggests that patients who desire a community of people going through similar experiences should seek out reputable in-person and online support communities sponsored medical and patient advocacy organizations.
The concerning findings of this study were presented at the 2023 Annual Meeting for the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in Tampa, Florida. The researchers are now considering how to create more diverse content to overcome racial and cultural disparities in the treatment of gynecologic cancers.
– Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute
– Morton, M., et al. (2023). “More than a song and dance”: Exploration of patient perspectives and educational quality of gynecologic cancer content on TikTok. Gynecologic Oncology. doi.org/10.1016/j.ygyno.2023.06.004.