An online resource of digital stories about cancer genetics: qualitative study of patient preferences and information needs

Rachel Iredale, Lisa Mundy, Jennifer Hilgart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The Cancer Genetics Service for Wales (CGSW) was established in 1998 as an all-Wales service for individuals with concerns about their family history of cancer. CGSW offers a range of services such as risk assessment, genetic counseling, and genetic testing. Individuals referred to cancer genetics services often have unmet information and support needs, and they value access to practical and experiential information from other patients and health professionals. As a result of the lifelong nature of genetic conditions, a fundamental challenge is to meet the ongoing needs of these patients by providing easily accessible and reliable information.

OBJECTIVES: Our aims were to explore how the long-term information and support needs of CGSW patients could be met and to assess whether an online bank of digital stories about cancer genetics would be acceptable to patients.

METHODS: In 2009, CGSW organized patient panels across Wales. During these events, 169 patients were asked for their feedback about a potential online resource of digital stories from CGSW patients and staff. A total of 75 patients registered to take part in the project and 23 people from across Wales agreed to share their story. All participants took part in a follow-up interview.

RESULTS: Patient preferences for an online collection of cancer genetics stories were collected at the patient panels. Key topics to be covered by the stories were identified, and this feedback informed the development of the website to ensure that patients' needs would be met. The 23 patient storytellers were aged between 28 and 75 years, and 19 were female. The digital stories reflect patients' experiences within CGSW and the implications of living with or at risk of cancer. Follow-up interviews with patient storytellers showed that they shared their experiences as a means of helping other patients and to increase understanding of the cancer genetics service. Digital stories were also collected from 12 members of staff working at CGSW. The digital stories provide reliable and easily accessible information about cancer genetics and are hosted on the StoryBank website (

CONCLUSIONS: The Internet is one mechanism through which the long-term information and support needs of cancer genetics patients can be met. The StoryBank is one of the first places where patient and staff stories have been allied to every aspect of a patient pathway through a service and provides patients with an experiential perspective of the cancer genetics "journey." The StoryBank was developed in direct response to patient feedback and is an innovative example of patient involvement in service development. The stories are a useful resource for newly referred patients, current patients, the general public, and health care professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e78
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2011


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Neoplasms
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Preference
  • Wales
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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