Majority of Patients Go Online for Information Following Cancer Diagnosis, Study Finds

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Health information brand Healthline launched its “State of…” series with its “State of Cancer” study, analyzing how digital information influences patient treatment decisions and recognizing generational differences.

Following cancer diagnosis, the majority of patients and caregivers go online for medical information and nearly half join a cancer support group, according to a new study.

With the growing importance and prevalence of the internet, the health information brand Healthline launched its “State of…” series with its with its “State of Cancer” study, which analyzed how digital information influences patient treatment decisions.

The brand’s research team examined the behaviors and consumer lifestyle data of 1500 US adults in September through original reporting and survey analysis. The researchers also took a look at generational differences between the behaviors.


“Healthline is committed to being an ally to our user, and to do that we have to understand their needs and have to understand the nuances generational differences,” said Ingrid Eberly, vice president, brand marketing, Healthline.

The results showed that 89% of people go online to search for information after being diagnosed with cancer; 40% go online within the same day. Younger generations were found to be quicker in turning to online resources; 49% of millennials and 44% of generation Xers went online within the same day, while 29% of boomers went online within the same day.

While more than half of participants joined a cancer support group following their diagnosis, millennials were 3 times more likely than boomers to join an online support group. This indicates that healthcare professionals need to talk to patients to provide education, support, and guidance, said Eberly.

Overall, most participants said that the internet empowers them: 78% use it to make informed decisions, and 71% said it helps them cope with anxiety and fear. However, the abundance and wide array of information on the internet does have its downside: 50% of millennials said that going online also causes anxiety and fear.

Although the internet has served as an information go-to for many, a significant number of patients still prefer to defer to their doctor for cancer treatment decisions, the study found. Nearly half (48%) of millennials relied exclusively on their clinical care team to make all of the decisions. For boomers, 38% relied exclusively on their doctor.

“We have seen all the effects of digital and social media in creating a more connected world,” Marisa C. Weiss, MD, chief medical officer, founder,, said in a statement. “Just as we innovate to improve actual cancer treatments, we should encourage patients to use the digital tools at their fingertips to get support, feel informed, and be even more a part of the treatment decisions that gets them back to health.”