One out of every eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That number is both shocking and infuriating. And yet, so many women facing the enormity of a breast cancer diagnosis have to navigate the channels on their own. Unfortunately, HIPAA regulations prevent hospitals from introducing patients to one another, so if you are a 35-year-old woman who has just been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, you can’t ask to meet other patients who are dealing with the same thing. But a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that a full 23% of Internet users suffering from chronic conditions have gone online to connect with other people who have experienced the same health issues.
Now there’s a new social network just for women facing breast cancer. MyHealthTeams, the group that brought you MyAutismTeam last year, announced Tuesday the launch of its newest property, MyBreastCancerTeam (MyBCTeam).
Like MyAutismTeam, MyBCTeam allows users to connect with other patients as well as providers. Members can find oncologists, surgeons, breast care navigators, and patient coordinators, as well as care providers people don’t normally think of, like nutritionists, massage therapists, personal trainers, places to get good mastectomy bras, and so on.
But the ability to connect with other patients is clearly the focal point of MyBCTeam. The site is open to any and all women who are dealing with breast cancer, whether they are newly diagnosed or several years out of treatment. Users can search for other women based on location, age, stage, and the type of diagnosis, such as Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) or Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This—in my opinion—is the coolest part of the site, since no two women diagnosed with breast cancer are going to be exactly alike. The ability to connect with other women of your age, diagnosis, location, and other life circumstances allows for so much more of a personal experience than a message board or forum with anonymous screen names.
It’s an interesting departure from MyAutismTeam, which is open to anyone who knows someone with autism. But obviously, the two conditions—autism and breast cancer—are very different and the people dealing with them have very different needs. How did MyHealthTeams figure out what those needs were and how to meet them?
“We started by interviewing dozens of women who have gone through breast cancer and learning from their experiences of what worked, what didn't work, and what resources they wished they'd had when going through treatment,” said CEO and co-founder Eric Peacock. “Next, we spent a lot of time meeting with women going through treatment right now and getting their feedback on the design and functioning of the site. We've had over 1,000 women on MyBCTeam from all around the country for the past two months using the site and providing feedback to us. We release a new version of the site every week based on their feedback.”
The women on the site share everything from tips for keeping energy levels up during chemo, to the foods and drinks that are manageable during treatment, to how they navigated the roads of reconstructive surgical options, and more.
The site’s design was also influenced by doctors, breast care navigators, and nurse coordinators. “Those nurse navigators are the unsung heroes of the health care system when it comes to breast cancer,” said Peacock.
MyHealthTeams is quickly becoming a critical resource for people suffering with chronic conditions. Since the beta launch of MyAutismTeam in June 2011, the site has grown from 30 families in California to nearly 30,000 parents today. With two million women living with breast cancer in the U.S. and a new one being diagnosed every three minutes, MyBCTeam is sure to meet a very real need.
Image sources: MyBCTeam.com