Changes in internet use and wishes of cancer survivors: A comparison between 2005 and 2017

Mies C H J van Eenbergen*, Ruben D Vromans, Dorry Boll, Paul J M Kil, Caroline M Vos, Emiel J Krahmer, Floortje Mols, Lonneke V van de Poll-Franse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Given the major changes in internet use for health communication, the objective of the current study was to compare the internet use and wishes of cancer survivors between 2005 and 2017.


The authors drew a sample of 390 patients in 2005 and 539 patients in 2017 who were diagnosed with breast (128 patients in 2005 and 143 patients in 2017), prostate (96 patients in 2005 and 126 patients in 2017), or gynecologic (89 patients in 2005 and 188 patients in 2017) cancer or lymphoma (77 patients in 2005 and 82 patients in 2017) in 4 different hospitals for the periods 2002 through 2004 and 2014 through 2016. These patients were sent a paper-based questionnaire that contained 45 questions regarding demographics and 4 functions of internet use: content, communication, community, and e-health.


The response in 2017 (53%) was lower than that in 2005 (75%). Survivors browsed the internet most frequently to search for information regarding cancer shortly after being diagnosed and while waiting for treatment. There was little change noted with regard to the relative importance attached to the various subjects. In 2017, significant increases were evident with regard to finances (+33%), health care insurance (+29%), and genetics and/or heritability (+27%). The wishes expressed in 2005 by patients were realized in part in 2017.


A significant sample of cancer survivors in the Netherlands have indicated that the internet is an important source of information regarding their illness. However, little change was evident over the past 15 years with regard to patients' priorities regarding their wishes for internet use. The wishes of users in 2005 were found to accurately reflect the internet use of the majority of patients in 2017. The results of the current study support the belief that health care professionals should expand their online services and tailor them toward the needs and wishes of their patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-415
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • breast cancer
  • cancer survivors
  • gynecologic cancer
  • internet
  • lymphoma
  • prostate cancer


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