Although cancer screening reduces morbidity and mortality, millions of people worldwide remain unscreened. Social media provide a unique platform to understand public sentiment toward tools that are commonly used for cancer screening.The objective of our study was to examine public sentiment toward colonoscopy, mammography, and Pap smear and how this sentiment spreads by analyzing discourse on Twitter.In this observational study, we classified 32,847 tweets (online postings on Twitter) related to colonoscopy, mammography, or Pap smears using a naive Bayes algorithm as containing positive, negative, or neutral sentiment. Additionally, we characterized the spread of sentiment on Twitter using an established model to study contagion.Colonoscopy-related tweets were more likely to express negative than positive sentiment (negative to positive ratio 1.65, 95% CI 1.51-1.80, P<.001), in contrast to the more positive sentiment expressed regarding mammography (negative to positive ratio 0.43, 95% CI 0.39-0.47, P<.001). The proportions of negative versus positive tweets about Pap smear were not significantly different (negative to positive ratio 0.95, 95% CI 0.87-1.04, P=.18). Positive and negative tweets tended to share lexical features across screening modalities. Positive tweets expressed resonance with the benefits of early detection. Fear and pain were the principal lexical features seen in negative tweets. Negative sentiment for colonoscopy and mammography spread more than positive sentiment; no correlation with sentiment and spread was seen for Pap smear.Analysis of social media data provides a unique, quantitative framework to better understand the public's perception of medical interventions that are commonly used for cancer screening. Given the growing use of social media, public health interventions to improve cancer screening should use the health perceptions of the population as expressed in social network postings about tests that are frequently used for cancer screening, as well as other people they may influence with such postings.
View details for DOI 10.2196/jmir.7485
View details for PubMedID 28592395