Date of Conferral





Human Services


Barbara Benoliel


The rate of thyroid cancer diagnosis has risen, and researchers' findings point to improved diagnostic testing and overdiagnosis as well as increases in actual incidences as the reasons behind this rise. With improved treatments and testing methods, the number of thyroid cancer survivors has also increased. Thyroid cancer presents challenges to coping and can cause significant stress in an individual's life. More specifically, anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) creates complicated challenges for patients and survivors. The problem is patients need support during diagnosis and treatment when adjusting to their 'new normal' and may be reaching to Internet based social support groups to gain health information. Lazarus's transactional theory of stress and coping formed a framework for this generic qualitative exploration of the types of support and information ATC patients and survivors receive through participating in an online Facebook support group. Thematic content analysis was conducted on archival data collected from the group over 4 months, namely 2,384 posts created by 166 group members. From this analysis, a picture relevant to all group participants was developed to include themes found among the data. Themes of emotional, informational and spiritual support emerged as well as the significance of using emojis as symbolic expressions of support. Implications for social change include expanding the theoretical knowledge of the ATC patient and survivor experience and the types of support available in online environments. This knowledge can lead to positive social change in terms of improving support resources, which may help in recovery from ATC; lessening the burden on patients, families, providers, insurance, the healthcare system, and our society as a whole.