The Role of Social Media in Disseminating Inaccurate Women’s Health Information: A Case Study on TikTok

by Mateo Gonzalez
5 comments
Misinformation on Gynecologic Cancers in Social Media

The majority of information related to gynecologic cancers on TikTok is either misleading or outright false, according to research that reveals that 73% of such content is incorrect. The study also underlines the racial disparities in the content that is disseminated, highlighting the urgency for dependable and accurate information.

Numerous women are utilizing TikTok as a resource for gathering information about gynecologic cancers. A recent academic publication from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, appearing in the journal Gynecologic Oncology, indicates that a substantial portion of this information is either misleading or significantly incorrect.

The Dual Nature of Social Media’s Influence

The senior author of the study, Dr. Laura Chambers, points out that while social media platforms have the capacity to disseminate misleading information that could negatively affect patients’ health outcomes, they also offer a unique opportunity to address concerns that may not typically arise during clinical consultations.

Dr. Laura Chambers produces educational videos related to gynecologic cancers on TikTok as a part of her work at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Her recent study evaluated 500 TikTok posts, finding that the majority of cancer-related content on the platform is devoid of accurate educational value.

Chambers’ research was primarily motivated by her interest in better understanding the unarticulated needs of her patients, many of whom are mothers and young women. She aimed to comprehend how these patients engage with social media, what sort of information they disseminate, and their consumption patterns for such information.

Research Objectives and Methodology

The goal of this study was to identify unaddressed patient needs that may not be articulated during clinical visits but require medical attention. Dr. Chambers notes that medical professionals often focus on treatment efficacy and patient outcomes, but overlook the domestic challenges that patients may encounter, such as balancing familial responsibilities during taxing treatments.

For this research, the team meticulously analyzed the 500 most popular posts on TikTok related to gynecologic cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, cervical, and vulvar cancers, as well as gestational trophoblastic disease. They examined the top five hashtags for each cancer type, gathering demographic data, message tones, and themes.

Educational videos were assessed for their quality using a well-established health education information scale. As of August 2022, these hashtags collectively garnered over 466 million views. The research concluded that at least 73% of the content was of poor educational quality and incorrect. It also observed that racial disparities were evident within the gynecologic cancer content on TikTok.

Concluding Remarks and Future Directions

The study raises several questions about subsequent steps for correcting these inaccuracies and directly engaging with patients, particularly with the aim of generating more diverse content to overcome racial and cultural disparities in the treatment of these cancers. Dr. Chambers urges patients seeking community support to engage with in-person and online communities backed by reputable medical and patient advocacy organizations.

This research was also showcased in two poster presentations at the 2023 Annual Meeting for the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in Tampa, Florida.

Reference: “More than a song and dance: Exploration of patient perspectives and educational quality of gynecologic cancer content on TikTok” by Molly Morton, Paulina J. Haight, Wafa Khadraoui, Floor Backes, Kristin Bixel, David M. O’Malley, Christa Nagel and Laura M. Chambers, published on 15 June 2023 in Gynecologic Oncology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2023.06.004

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Misinformation on Gynecologic Cancers in Social Media

What is the primary focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the prevalence of misleading or incorrect information about gynecologic cancers on the social media platform TikTok. It references a study conducted by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center that found 73% of such content to be inaccurate.

Who conducted the research that the article refers to?

The research was conducted by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The senior author of the study is Dr. Laura Chambers.

What types of gynecologic cancers were examined in the study?

The study examined content related to various types of gynecologic cancers including ovarian, endometrial, cervical, and vulvar cancers, as well as gestational trophoblastic disease.

What is the significance of the study’s findings on racial disparities?

The study highlights that racial disparities are evident even in the content about gynecologic cancers shared on TikTok. This underlines the need for more diverse and accurate information to overcome such disparities in healthcare.

How was the quality of educational content assessed?

The quality of educational videos was evaluated using an established health education information scale.

What does Dr. Laura Chambers suggest for patients seeking community support?

Dr. Laura Chambers recommends that patients who are seeking community support should turn to in-person and online communities that are sponsored by reputable medical and patient advocacy organizations.

Were the study’s findings presented in any other format?

Yes, the findings were also presented in two poster presentations at the 2023 Annual Meeting for the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in Tampa, Florida.

What are the future directions suggested for addressing the misinformation?

The study suggests that medical professionals should engage more directly with patients to correct inaccuracies and should focus on creating more diverse content to overcome racial and cultural disparities in the treatment of these cancers.

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5 comments

Sarah M. October 11, 2023 - 9:21 pm

dr. Chambers is doing a good job trying to counteract all the bad info out there. Its not easy with social media spreading stuff like wildfire.

Reply
Karen W. October 12, 2023 - 3:59 am

Why are so many people turning to social media for medical advice in the first place? Seems like a recipe for disaster to me. Always consult with professionals folks.

Reply
Emily R. October 12, 2023 - 3:42 pm

Racial disparities even in this? Man, we got a long way to go. Kudos to the researchers for shedding light on this, it’s important.

Reply
John D. October 12, 2023 - 4:38 pm

Wow, 73% inaccurate info on TikTok? That’s scary, especially when it comes to something as serious as cancer. People really need to be careful where they get their info from.

Reply
Mike L. October 12, 2023 - 5:10 pm

interesting how the article talks about the double-edged sword of social media. Yeah it can spread misinformation, but also help address gaps in patient care. A mixed bag indeed.

Reply

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