In the last of a three-part series on “changing the culture of oncology,” Dr. Sanjay says it was the realization that he was explaining the same concepts over and over to patients that led him to look to social media as an education
platform—a way to share information broadly, help keep people up to date on new advances, and address medical misinformation.
Sanjay Juneja, MDChief of Oncology Service Baton Rouge Medical Center Baton Rouge, LA Board Member of the Louisiana Oncology Society“We live in a time
where people just want to know more…they want to be involved in their care, in what to expect, in understanding not just the disease but also the treatment.”
CANCER BUZZ: Welcome back to CANCER BUZZ TV. I'm your host, Summer Johnson. Today we conclude our three-part series with Dr. Sanjay Juneja, and we're looking at how oncologists can deliver patient education through social media platforms.
Dr. Sanjay Juneja is a medical oncologist and hematologist and chief of oncology service at Baton Rouge Medical Center. He's also a board member of the Louisiana Oncology Society. Welcome back, Dr. Juneja.
Explain how your colleagues can use social media to share complex medical information with patients.
Sanjay Juneja, MD: Yeah, so that's, it's a big, you know, conversation, especially before I think the COVID era where, you know, doctors started teaching more on social media and then there was this issue like, do we educate? Do not?
I think most will agree that we live in a time where people just want to know more. They want to be involved in their care, in what to expect in understanding not just the disease process, if it's cancer or not, but also the treatments. And I
think that's so awesome. That's the way it should be, right? That's how you have comfort and peace of mind.
That gets very challenging in cancer. But what other disease process do you really like is find more intimidating if you don't understand than cancer? It's like one of the hardest to understand, one of the most intimidating, and unfortunately we know
that there's just a huge deficit, right, of oncologists to the amount of cancer needs. We talked about a previous podcast about how, you know, what's the, what does it mean for clinicians that people are living longer? That's, that everyone has
to kind of know something because it takes 14 years to make an oncologist.
So when that's the case, it's kind of, it's the case now. The more people can be aware of things and learn things both from side effects, toxicities, from these new novel drugs and everything, to also just understanding, just getting that conversation,
“Hey, remember this is what staging means,” or this is, remember, you know, that recall it's very well evidence. People feel more comfortable, the more knowledgeable they are. It's hard to find the knowledge. It's just a sea out there.
All that to say in a very long winded way, you know, I personally kind of found it celestial calling or whatever, whatever you want to call it to say.
I just, I'm saying the same things a lot to help people. And I see the total change in my southern Louisiana woman that's 70 and very quiet and you know, scared the first visitor too, and then vibrant, right? And her stage four diagnosis didn't change,
but when you ask, hey, what, you know, your, your whole demeanor change, it's like, you know, I just, I just wanted to know. I just wanted to understand. And so what I personally do, and many are doing a social media, is to put those concepts,
it's not recommendations to say like, go do this, that, and the other. But the screening, but the staging, you know, the toxicities on chemotherapy, people want to know that.
And there's not, you know, oncology is not a, a, you know, glitz and glam field, right? Like surgeons and EMTs do well on social media. But as an oncologist, I take very seriously, you know, the half a million followers or so that I, that I have engaged
and how the videos go to millions. It's because people just want this information directly to understand what screening means and why it's really good. And just doesn't mean that, you know, you're in trouble. It means like, hey, we can get you
out of trouble. I mean, these concepts are crazy. So if someone feels inclined, I don't think by any means, every oncologist should be on social media.
By no means should that be the case. But if somebody feels comfortable about sharing things and they see that their patients like are able to receive it well and get more comfortable, most of America and most community, you know, oncology patients
are left with a desire for more. The literature shows that, and the feedback has been very like encouraging and something that I feel responsible for, for myself, and I think a lot of us do on how can we get more information out there and really
keep people up to date. So like when these approvals come, like in the, where we talked about the HER2+ and breast cancer being negative, and now it's positive.
Like we know the literature shows it takes several months to years before it's applied to all the women in the community. And men that may be HER2+. That's sad. We have a treatment, we have so many treatments out there that are the gold standard or
better. And all the literature shows that like they're not, you know, and especially talk, talking on the minority groups, it's not even being delivered. And yet we're spending billions to get more drugs. How do you get that out there when there's,
when, when oncologists are oversaturated with information we can get, it could also help the patient and say, Hhey, this is something, you know, I think personally, maybe it's naive.
It's not the incompetence, it's not the lack of care. It's just an unmet need. And then when patients can get this information, social media being one of them, then they can take it back and then everyone wins because the oncologist learns. And then,
you know, the patients are making sure what the peace of mind that they have the most up to date care. So I think there's, it's valuable for a lot of those reasons.
CANCER BUZZ: How can we use social media to address medical misinformation?
Sanjay Juneja, MD: There's a lot of it. And you know, that's the kind of frustrating thing that happened also with, with COVID and vaccines and even outside of all that. But the internet is unregulated for the most part. There's no
trafficking to say this is fact, this is not, you know, if somebody could say, I'm a doctor, there's, nobody's going to flag that, you know, Instagram video or Facebook video to say they're not a doctor. But that, the thing I always say to that
is, that exists already anyway. Whether an oncologist is on social media or not, that's happening, right?
And for me personally, that's what says. So give people at least the opportunity to learn. I don't want to say know better. Again, naively, I don't think anyone means well when they share things and make videos about things. But I think, you know,
misleading stuff or things that aren't exactly true or extrapolated and up perpetuating very fast. If you want to meet that in any way or give people a chance to know better, then the way to do that is to educate from this side, right? And so
that's a really kind of strong role. And, and that's why I've been very humbled with my videos.
I get shared by these organizations or these support groups I didn't know existed that still have thousands of people in them because they're like, aha, this is why. Because a lot of times on the message boards, you'll see patients are asking questions
and not one person in there can answer it because it's, it builds on each other like it's 15 years, right? To learn it. So the more we can put it out there, I think the more comfortable people get. Ideally, there's no study, I don't think, but
that, that care is most optimized or more optimized because people are knowledgeable. And then you can also combat the misinformation, which I had to do a lot of during like COVID when it came to blood stuff.
And then also, you know, there was this big, there's always a craze about something, the miracle cancer cure. And we talk about how mice models isn't the best example because the mice models immune, the mice, the mouse's immune system may have just
killed the cancer when you put the cancer cell in there. Like people don't know that. That's why I could vanish in a mouse, I could get placebo and the cancer cell could disappear, and you could say, oh, the drug did it. But when somebody just
hears that, they're like, aha, I understand. I understand why it's important to treat the cancer in a patient that had the cancer because it escaped their immune system.
But what if somebody else's immune system killed it? Anyway, that's, that's huge. But you've see an article all the time saying, this is the, this is the cure, right? And sometimes it's not even anti-cancer stuff, it's just some sprinkle and you could
understand why somebody perpetuated that cause they mean well. But then you can break it down with knowledge and education. And I think that's where we have a responsibility, not necessarily to be on social media, but if we're not meeting the
needs, we're able to see the patients, which we know there's a deficit, then that's one strategy. Somebody if it behooves them, can do so.
CANCER BUZZ: Thank you, Dr. Juneja. You can head to the show notes to find more about Dr. Juneja's use of social media as part of his oncology practice. CANCER BUZZ TV is a resource of the Association of Community Cancer Centers developed
to bring oncology professionals the news and latest trends in cancer care. Thank you for joining us in this series with Dr. Juneja. On behalf of all of us here at CANCER BUZZ TV, thank you for watching. I'm Summer Johnson.