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Toronto (Jan. 12, 2010) - The success of a robust online community that began as a tiny networking site for breast cancer survivors to "talk" to each other is expanding as a resource to help more people with cancer.
The Caring Voices website now provides all cancer survivors, their families and caregivers with peer support, a comprehensive resource library and access to moderated virtual chats with oncologists and other cancer experts from across Canada. There are no costs associated with Caring Voices - www.caringvoices.ca - which has registered over 2,500 users.
"All cancer patients and survivors can now benefit from barrier-free access to both expert and peer support in an environment that is trusted and supported by healthcare professionals," says Sara Urowitz, Manager of Educational Informatics at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), University Health Network. "Caring Voices now includes communities for gynecologic, hematologic, and breast cancers in addition to a general community for people with any type of cancer. These online communities allow cancer survivors to connect with each other across the country."
Since PMH's award-winning Patient Education Program and Breast Cancer Survivorship Program launched Caring Voices, it has grown steadily into a community with nearly 10 million page views, over 400 moderated chats, over 400 forum postings and dozens of threads created.
"Caring Voices allows me to talk to other cancer survivors, providing each of us with a safe and comfortable environment to share and discuss issues and to learn from others' experiences. The website provides anonymity, is user-friendly and offers valuable resources that support survivors like me," says Jill Lang Ward, myeloma cancer survivor and Caring Voices Peer Moderator.
Caring Voices features real-time chats with other cancer survivors, members of the cancer community and healthcare professionals. An enhanced matching function enables survivors and caregivers to search for individuals based on ethnic background, type of cancer, or the stage in their cancer experience (i.e. recently diagnosed, beginning treatment, survivor), and more.
"We want to make Princess Margaret Hospital expertise, and the knowledge and experience of our partners and collaborators, available beyond these walls to reach a national and international audience," says Dr. Urowitz.
The next step is to expand to include more types of cancer, with plans underway to launch a gastrointestinal cancer community in the spring. Development of the Caring Voices website is supported by The Quilt: Support for People Living with Cancer, Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and Klick Communications.
Princess Margaret Hospital and its research arm, Ontario Cancer Institute, have achieved an international reputation as global leaders in the fight against cancer. Princess Margaret Hospital is a member of University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. All three are research hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto.
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