Hispanic cancer patients’ attitudes toward Internet cancer support groups

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Guevara, Enrique

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Previous studies suggest that the reasons that Hispanics do not use support groups might include utilizing the family as an informal support group structure, the use of spiritual support, language barriers, the lack of access to a computer and the Internet, the lack of face-to-face interactions in Internet groups, and the lack of cultural competence. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes of Hispanics toward Internet cancer support groups (ICSGs) and reasons for the lack of participation in ICSGs. In this feminist qualitative study, 30 Hispanic individuals who were receiving cancer care were contacted for telephone interviews. The participants were interviewed to obtain their responses to questions related to current use and interest in using ICSGs. The researcher used qualitative thematic analysis to analyze the data. Four major themes arose. They were the need for a strong social network, attitudes about information access, concrete barriers to obtaining support, and the need for respect and empowerment. The major theme of “a strong social network” includes five sub-themes: (a) differences in online and face-to-face communication; (b) loneliness, isolation; (c) existence or lack of familial support; (d) spiritual support; and (e) informal support. Participants had mixed attitudes about information access. Positive attitudes were more common and included wanting to learn about their disease and learn how to obtain information and support via computer. Some participants did not want to obtain information, and some had negative attitudes about learning to use the computer. Many participants did not own a computer and had transportation problems that limited their access to a computer. The theme involving the need for respect and empowerment addressed the empowering use of Spanish in support of Hispanic cancer patients and empowerment via the group leader, who was Hispanic. The findings suggest a need to develop culturally competent ICSGs for Hispanics. One goal would be to augment instead of replace support. For example, an ICSG could have a spiritual basis, or there might be several ICSGs—one each for patients, families, and supporters such as friends from church. ICSGs also could target people without these supports. The existing knowledge should be used to provide direction for future research and for the development of cancer support groups that could meet the unique needs of Hispanic cancer patients.




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