Social media posts about COVID-19 and lung cancer by oncology influencers peaked in April

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, social media posts related to the virus from oncology influencers increased significantly, with content peaking in April, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Using GlobalData’s Oncology Influencer database, Twitter posts relating to COVID-19 have been tracked and analyzed from January to May. In January and February, there were only 7 and 17 COVID-19 posts respectively, which increased to 420 in March. A peak of just over 680 tweets related to COVID-19 was seen in April from oncology influencers, with a decrease in May to 410 posts.

Kathryn Whitney, MSc, Director of Thematic Analysis, comments: “One of the main topics that oncology influencers discussed was lung cancer and COVID-19. In January, just one post relating to this topic was seen from the influencers, while in February no tweets mentioned lung cancer.”

However, in March and April, both ‘lung cancer’ and ‘LCSM’ (lung cancer social media) were in the top 10 trending keywords for COVID-19–related posts, appearing in 25% of posts combined for each month. In May, ‘LCSM’ and ‘lung cancer’ were the second and third highest trending keywords respectively, and were found in 29% of posts combined.

Whitney continues: “Posts in May discussed how lung cancer leads to higher rates of severe illness and hospitalizations with COVID-19 compared to other solid tumors. There were also several tweets on the impact of checkpoint inhibitors on the severity of the virus in lung cancer patients, as well as posts on how COVID-19 was often getting mistaken for lung cancer by radiologists. In addition, while not related specifically to lung cancer, another key topic that oncology influencers discussed in May was the impact of COVID-19 on cancer screenings rates and surgery delays.”

Lung cancer patients are classed as a group that are at significantly higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 if infected. There are a number of factors that impact the extent of severity including immunosuppressive treatments such as chemotherapy as well as lung damage from radiotherapy. A number of studies have shown increased hospitalization rates, admissions to intensive care, and mortality rates in lung cancer patients with COVID-19.

Whitney adds: “Given their heightened vulnerability, it is critical that lung cancer patients continue to take measures to shield themselves from contracting COVID-19. Unfortunately, it has also been widely reported that COVID-19 could lead to tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths as a result of missed screenings and delays in diagnosis and treatment. It is crucial that patients continue to get access to screening and care during the pandemic, and healthcare systems must work hard to ensure that these services resume immediately.”

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