Internet support groups for cancer patients

What if you're a retired 68-year-old man with prostate cancer that causes fatigue, decreased appetite, a 70-pound weight loss and unsteadiness on your feet? You live in a makeshift bedroom in the living room of your home. Your mind is as sharp as ever, but you feel isolated and would like to talk to someone who understands what you're going through.

Sharon Martin, associate professor of nursing at Saint Joseph's College in Standish, has published an article that can help this man and other people with cancer who cannot or do not want to leave their home to seek support and social interaction with other cancer patients. "Help on the Net: Internet Support Groups for People Dealing With Cancer" is the lead article in the December 2002 issue of Home Healthcare Nurse.

According to Martin, "Online support groups are an important way for cancer patients to cope with emotional and practical aspects of cancer, especially for homebound people who may not be able to take advantage of traditional support groups typically offered through hospitals." Family, friends and caregivers of patients may also benefit from these groups, she says. The article lists major online support groups along with guidelines to evaluate these Internet sites.

Martin co-published the article with Kathleen Youngren in the peer-reviewed journal, which is the Visiting Nurses Association of America official journal for clinical practice and the official journal of the Home Healthcare Nurses Association.

According to the article, 31 percent of Americans between 55 and 64 use the Internet and those older than age 55 are the fastest-growing group of Internet users.

For further information on Internet support groups for cancer patients, contact nursing professor Sharon Martin at Saint Joseph's College.

anuary 16, 2003 Contact: Charmaine Daniels at (207) 893-7723 or e-mail cdaniels@sjcme.edu