How cancer patients are bonding through Instagram posts
The Instagram hashtag #breasties is used by breast cancer patients across the globe to share hidden insights about their treatment.
The popular social media platform, which often presents idealised images, is being used to reveal behind-the-scenes photos and confidences normally not disclosed in public.
RMIT University marketing researcher Lauren Gurrieri said information about breast cancer usually showed what happened before and after treatment, but this process included "the in-between" time.
Dr Gurrieri and researchers from Chicago's Loyola University analysed 180 Instagram posts and found patients who exchanged information with others felt "more educated, more informed and more prepared for the ongoing battle with breast cancer". "They were able to connect and bond with people going through the same thing," she said.
The study focused on 18 women across the US, UK, Norway, Spain and Canada who shared images and videos with a combined following of almost 210,000 people.
Some women shared confronting images of hair loss, rashes, mastectomy and reconstruction, while others shared tips and product knowledge. Dr Gurrieri said the images showed "medicalised and abnormal bodies that don't meet the ideal and challenge the ideal". "They also show that, long after cancer, life doesn't go on as before," she said.
"One woman enlisted the help of her health practitioner to film her radiation treatment before posting it on Instagram, while another documented her breast surgery," she said.
Laura Wild, 33, of Prahran, has used Instagram to keep in touch with family and friends in New Zealand since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April. Ms Wild had a mastectomy in May and then three months of chemotherapy, finishing in August. "I am on the other side," she said.
Ms Wild wasn't part of Dr Gurrieri's research, but said it was "nice to know you are not alone and to share with others of a similar age going through the same thing".