We aimed to evaluate brachytherapy-related posts on Instagram by identifying patient concerns, the content of related posts, and user outreach.
Methods and materials
A list of top posts from searching #brachytherapy on May 7, 2021, were generated on a mobile device and all data are representative as of May 7, 2021. Searching for #brachytherapy resulted in 1010 posts which were analyzed using Instagram. The content was categorized by source (physician, patient, hospital, or not otherwise specified), type (education or experiences), disease site (cervical, endometrial, other), and user influence (number of posts, number of followers). Patient posts were specifically analyzed and all captions and hashtags were reviewed.
The distribution of users with brachytherapy-related posts was as follows: 23% patients, 15% physicians, 9% hospitals, 53% not otherwise specified. Physicians only made up 11% of posts analyzed while the majority, 79%, were from patients and other Instagram users. From the accounts linked to patients, 99% of them were experience-based and 1% were educational. Posts made by physicians were educational in content 66% of the time, with 34% of posts being experiences. The median number of followers from least to greatest were not otherwise specified (NOS) 450.5, patients (501), hospital-affiliated (527), and physicians (608). In gynecological cancer patients, the reported side effects were as follows: fatigue 31%, gastrointestinal (GI) 16%, genitourinary (GU) 16%, pain 28%, and anxiety 50%.
This study shows the influential power physicians have on social media and the need for increased brachytherapy awareness on platforms such as Instagram. Patients have voiced apprehension to pursue radiation due to lack of information provided and fear of the unknown. With this concern in mind, physicians are responsible to increase the availability of knowledge to patients in a more relaxed environment than the clinic. With increased physician social media presence, patients will have another avenue for support and reliable source of treatment information.