Medical College of Wisconsin
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Seeking virtual support: Digital technology use in adolescent and young adults with advanced cancer. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2022 Nov;69(11):e29938



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Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85137575662 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   3 Citations


BACKGROUND: A cancer diagnosis, especially advanced cancer, interferes with adolescent/young adult (AYA) peer relationships. AYAs increasingly use digital technologies (i.e., social media, video games) as a social instrument; little is known about the role of digital technologies in the AYA cancer experience. The objective of this analysis was to describe the use and impact of digital technologies among AYAs with advanced cancer.

PROCEDURE: As part of the "Exploring the Concept of a 'Good Death'" study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 32 English-speaking AYAs (14-25 years) with advanced cancer (relapsed/refractory disease, estimated survival <50%). Interviews were audio recorded, deidentified, and transcribed verbatim. Questions focused on communication and sources of psychosocial support. Directed content analysis was used for codebook creation. Three reviewers completed transcript coding and reconciled discrepancies. Thematic analysis identified hierarchical themes. The present analysis focused on the specific theme of "digital technologies as a support mechanism."

RESULTS: When asked about sources of support, social media and multiplayer online games were most often recognized by AYAs. Three themes emerged regarding the role of digital technologies: distraction, maintaining existing peer support, and connecting with peers with cancer. Two AYAs acknowledged negative consequences of social media.

CONCLUSIONS: AYAs with advanced cancer cite digital technologies as a mechanism for maintaining and seeking peer support. Digital technologies may be leveraged to provide psychosocial support for AYAs with advanced cancer.

Author List

Steineck A, Lau N, Fladeboe KM, Walsh CA, Rosenberg AR, Yi-Frazier JP, Barton KS


Angela S. Steineck MD Assistant Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Peer Group
Young Adult