An exploratory study in breast cancer of factors involved in the use and communication with health professionals of Internet information



To study the impact of the spontaneous use of Internet on breast cancer patients and on their relationship with health professionals.


A mixed methodology was used. Two questionnaires were designed through three focus groups, and then administered to 186 patients and 59 professionals in order to assess: (1) patients’ use of Internet for health-related information and (2) the impact of this information on patients’ psychological outcomes and on their relationship with professionals.


Patients spent more time looking for illness-related information after diagnosis, using interactive communities more than static information websites. Patients and professionals disagreed about the use of Internet in terms of the knowledge it provides, and its psychological impact. The main barrier reported by patients regarding the sharing of online information with their professionals was the belief that it would damage their relationship.


Both professionals and patients have a protectionist conception of the therapeutic relationship. This attitude tends to dismiss the positive impact that the use of Internet and the new communication tools may have in cancer patients. New resources should provide an “Internet Prescription” and modes of interaction to facilitate a more open digital communication.

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Data availability

The data of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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The authors thank the CERCA Programme Generalitat de Catalunya for the institutional support.


This study has been funded by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III through the project (FIS PI15/01278) co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, ERDF, “a way to build Europe” //FONDOS FEDER “una manera de hacer Europa.” Grup de recerca consolidat: Recerca en serveis sanitaris en càncer, 2017SGR00735. It was also partially supported by grants from Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer and the Generalitat de Catalunya (grant number 2014SGR0635). None of the sponsors was involved in the implementation of the study.

Author information




All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and data collection were performed by Cristian Ochoa-Arnedo, Nuria Casanovas-Aljaro, Enric C. Sumalla, María Lleras de Frutos, Agustina Sirgo, Ana Rodríguez, Gloria Campos, and Yolanda Valverde. Data analysis was performed by Aida Flix-Valle, Anna Casellas-Grau, Noémie Travier, and Joan Carles Medina. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Aida Flix-Valle, Nuria Casanovas-Aljaro, and Olga Herrero. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cristian Ochoa-Arnedo.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The authors assert that all participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. All procedures conducted complied with the ethical standards of the relevant institutional committees on human experimentation, and with the Helsinki Declaration as revised in 2008.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Ochoa-Arnedo, C., Flix-Valle, A., Casellas-Grau, A. et al. An exploratory study in breast cancer of factors involved in the use and communication with health professionals of Internet information. Support Care Cancer 28, 4989–4996 (2020).

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  • Breast cancer
  • Oncology
  • Internet prescription
  • Therapeutic relationship