Using Twitter for Connection and Lung Cancer Information: A Primer
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Are you looking for a website where you can find the latest news about lung cancer research and treatment? Would you like to be able to engage with some of the top doctors in the field? Would you like to find other people who are dealing with lung cancer? You can use Twitter for all of these purposes.

Twitter has been a place for breaking news pretty much as long as it has existed, though for many years I used it as a mini-Facebook. After I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I started using it to follow people connected with lung cancer, and learned about the power of the hashtag. I now use Twitter to participate in online cancer-related chats and to follow major cancer conferences.

The Magic Pulling Everything Together Is the Hashtag

Beginning in 2010, a group called Symplur realized that a defined system of hashtags would make it easier to find and communicate medical information. The official hashtag for all things lung cancer is #LCSM (Lung Cancer Social Media). Type those five characters into a Twitter search, and tweets from all over the world about lung cancer will be selected for you.

Hashtags are also used to tag tweets during medical conferences. For example, the hashtag for the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference held in early June was #ASCO17. I followed a double search using both #ASCO17 and #LCSM, and was able to focus my Twitter news stream to just the latest lung cancer research news. It’s a fascinating way to spend a chunk of a weekend, because you get real-time reports on the latest research findings, and see photos of the slides being presented. The doctors who use Twitter as a communication tool often do an excellent job of reporting information in language that a patient can understand.

A regular event on Twitter for people interested in lung cancer is the biweekly #LCSM chat. This chat happens every other Thursday at 8 PM ET. For one hour, patients, advocates, oncologists, surgeons, and pathologists discuss a selected topic. The group is warm and inclusive, and your voice is as valued as the tweets of the medical professionals, some of whom are leaders in lung cancer research.

Getting Started on Twitter

If you don’t have a Twitter account right now and want to check this out, it’s easy to go to Twitter.com and set up an account. Twitter also has apps for all smartphones. Once you have a username and password, however, you have a blank news feed, other than the stories that Twitter itself publishes to everyone. How do you find people and groups to follow? There are three main ways: searching on a person’s name, searching on a hashtag, and looking at who someone else follows.

All Twitter accounts start with “@“. You can search for a particular account by a person’s or group’s name. If you know the account name, type it into the search box to find the account quickly. If not, type in the person or organization’s name. Be aware that pseudonyms abound because many people do not use their real names on Twitter. You can click on any account that shows up in your search for more information before you decide to click on the “Follow” button. I suggest two accounts to add to your “Following” list: @LungCancer_HU, the Twitter account for LungCancer.net, and @LCSMchat, the Twitter account for the biweekly Twitter chat I discuss above.

You can also search on a hashtag. Click on the account name of anyone who has posted to that hashtag, then click their “Follow” button to add them to your “Following” list.

A fruitful way to discover people you might not find otherwise is to click on an account name, then click on “Following” on their profile page. Chances are good that if you are interested in what they have to say, they are following other people who also are likely to post tweets of interest.

Please feel free to leave a comment or to contact me if you have any questions about using Twitter. It’s another online tool that we can use to build connections and to be informed, empowered patients.

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