Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
November 2004 Issue
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Breast cancer support a click away

The Internet can provide valuable support for women with breast cancer, new research has found.

A team from the University of Adelaide, led by Associate Professor in Psychology Dr Helen Winefield, set up a breast cancer-related website called WINGS (Women in Need Getting Support) to explore how useful the Internet can be for women with the condition.

Other team members included Department of Surgery Associate Professor Brendon Coventry, and Project Manager Vanessa Lambert; in addition a lot of valuable contributions were made by breast cancer organisations and informatics experts, with funding coming from the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Australia Post.

Their findings, which have just been published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, deal with their experiences of setting up such a website and suggest the information and community provided by such a site are valuable in helping women cope with breast cancer.

"The idea was that women with breast cancer who live in isolated areas might have more difficulty in accessing information and emotional support. We wanted to show that having a website available was helpful to women with cancer and their families," Dr Winefield said.

The most innovative aspect of the website, Dr Winefield said, was the e-mail discussion group. Here women could share their feelings, ask for tips from others who had been through the experience, and offer encouragement to each other.

"The interaction through a discussion board is very useful; there is information, there is emotional support and there are links to other breast cancer sites. We received a lot of positive feedback."

Due to funding constraints the site is no longer being actively maintained, but is still popular, with an average of between 6000 to 8000 hits per month (with at least 20% of those coming from Australia). The researchers would be pleased to see management of the site taken up by a group with relevant expertise and resources.

Dr Winefield (pictured left) said that documenting how the WINGS site was set up could be of assistance to other health professionals who want to take advantage of this new medium of communication.

"We think that people, both here in Australia and internationally, may benefit from reading about our experiences because we were one of the first in Australia to establish this sort of website and we wanted to share what we learned about all its aspects," Dr Winefield said.

Story by Natalie De Nadai

Ever wanted to know more about psychology?

National Psychology Week is being held from November 7 to 13, with two free public events the main features.

The first will be a forum entitled "All Psyched Up: One year of Psychology in the classroom", which will discuss the introduction in 2004 of Psychology into the year 11 and year 12 secondary curricula. The forum will take place at the Australian Mineral Foundation, 63 Conyngham St., Glenside, at 6.30pm on Monday, November 8.

The second event is an information marquee in Rundle Mall all day on Friday, November 12. Materials will be available that describe the diverse range of services psychology provides, together with information for studying psychology at each of Adelaide's universities.

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Associate Professor Dr Helen Winefield

Associate Professor Dr Helen Winefield
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