A scoping review of the characteristics and benefits of online prostate cancer communities
Exercise Medicine Research Institute
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Objective: Online prostate cancer communities (OPCaCs) have emerged as a new source of support, not bounded by geographic barriers, for men living with prostate cancer. This scoping review mapped the existing literature to explore the characteristics and benefits of OPCaCs, identify knowledge gaps, and direct future research. Methods: A six-step methodological framework for scoping reviews was followed. Four electronic databases were searched for relevant studies. Two authors independently screened titles and abstracts, and full texts, against predefined criteria: empirical research, post 1990, in English-language peer-reviewed journals; participants included prostate cancer survivors; and research explored online peer support. Data were extracted from the studies and quality assessed. Results: The search yielded 905 studies, with 21 selected for synthesis. Despite significant increases in online forum membership, in the last decade, nearly half of the research was conducted over a decade ago. Three studies were rated high quality, the rest moderate. All but one of the studies were observational and cross-sectional. Men reported that sharing information helped them deal with their diagnosis and treatment side effects. They also gained a sense of camaraderie with men who shared similar experiences. Due to divergent methodologies and reporting standards, assessment regarding OPCaC efficacy is not possible. Conclusion: OPCaCs may be a cost-effective and accessible resource for delivering peer support to men living with prostate cancer. While self-reported evidence as to the benefits of OPCaCs exists, more longitudinal comparative studies, utilising consistent measurement approaches, are needed to support the claims.