Background: In the era of big data, the presence of cancer in social media is undeniable. Twitter is one of the biggest networks worldwide, therefore, it establishes an enormous real-world data field of interest when studying health issues. As far as we know, there are no exploratory studies about the content or the authorship of tweets related to breast cancer.
Methods: Tweets (original and re-tweets) with the hashtag #BreastCancer posted on Twitter during a 7-day period were collected. For the analysis, tweets were categorised based on their content (medical vs non medical and if medical, appropriate vs inappropriate), user information (private account vs institution or public account), the aim of the tweet (patients¿ experience, relatives¿ experience, advertising, scientific content, fund-raising and patient advocacy) and also on the extent to which they indicated a stigmatising attitude towards cancer. Tweets were further grouped into subthemes: diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention (life-style and other risk factors).
Results: A total of 6341 tweets were collected (3703 original and 2638 re-tweets). When analysing original tweets, only 31% had medical content and in these, 90% were considered to have appropriate content. A stigmatising attitude towards cancer was identified in 14.8% of the tweets classified as non-medical content. 60% of the tweets came from private accounts and 40% from institutions or public accounts. Most of the tweets came from patients¿ experiences (30.7%), followed by patient advocacy (25.3%). When considering subthemes, the most common topic was cancer prevention (44.5%). Description of tweets (%) containing #BreastCancer in a 7-day period.