People affected by cancer face complex decisions about care that require an understanding of cancer, treatments and ongoing management. Information is highly valued, but needs are not always met within the health system. While printed resources are effective, digital technologies provide new ways for people to access and engage with information when and where they choose. Podcasts are an increasingly popular way to consume content in Australia and Cancer Council NSW developed a series of information podcasts for people recently affected by cancer.
The aim was to evaluate the quality of The Thing About Cancer podcasts, as well as their usefulness and impact on listener knowledge and help-seeking behaviour.
A self-report survey measuring quality and effectiveness was deployed via the Cancer Council website for 15 weeks. Over the course of the study period, 14 podcasts were available across range of topics. 29 surveys were completed, with 24% of participants identifying as carers; a further 24% as family or friends; and 31% as patients. 88% were aged 40-69.
All participants indicated the podcasts were as easy to understand, provided a good introduction to the topic, were engaging, and featured trustworthy experts (95%), indicating they are pitched at an appropriate level and of high quality. The podcasts helped people understand information provided by health care professionals (77%), to think of questions to ask them (82%) and to explain things to family and friends (72%), with 6 in 10 noting that they had told or discussed the podcasts with others.
Listeners also reported that the podcasts contained useful information (95%) and increased their knowledge about cancer (85%), the management of side effects/lifestyle changes (91%) and where to access more help (95%), thus fulfilling unmet informational needs. All respondents noted they felt supported knowing that others were going through a similar experience, highlighting the importance of including consumer voices to normalise the experience for others.
These podcasts provide a credible, informative and easy to understand way to access cancer information, increasing knowledge about cancer-related topics, prompting further help-seeking behaviours and helping to normalise the cancer experience. They are an innovative means of reaching a wider audience and provide an alternative way for people affected by cancer to access reliable information.