Background: Patients with breast cancer have a variety of worries and need multifaceted information support. Their accumulated posts on social media contain rich descriptions of their daily worries concerning issues such as treatment, family, and finances. It is important to identify these issues to help patients with breast cancer to resolve their worries and obtain reliable information. Objective: This study aimed to extract and classify multiple worries from text generated by patients with breast cancer using Bidirectional Encoder Representations From Transformers (BERT), a context-aware natural language processing model. Methods: A total of 2272 blog posts by patients with breast cancer in Japan were collected. Five worry labels, “treatment,” “physical,” “psychological,” “work/financial,” and “family/friends,” were defined and assigned to each post. Multiple labels were allowed. To assess the label criteria, 50 blog posts were randomly selected and annotated by two researchers with medical knowledge. After the interannotator agreement had been assessed by means of Cohen kappa, one researcher annotated all the blogs. A multilabel classifier that simultaneously predicts five worries in a text was developed using BERT. This classifier was fine-tuned by using the posts as input and adding a classification layer to the pretrained BERT. The performance was evaluated for precision using the average of 5-fold cross-validation results. Results: Among the blog posts, 477 included “treatment,” 1138 included “physical,” 673 included “psychological,” 312 included “work/financial,” and 283 included “family/friends.” The interannotator agreement values were 0.67 for “treatment,” 0.76 for “physical,” 0.56 for “psychological,” 0.73 for “work/financial,” and 0.73 for “family/friends,” indicating a high degree of agreement. Among all blog posts, 544 contained no label, 892 contained one label, and 836 contained multiple labels. It was found that the worries varied from user to user, and the worries posted by the same user changed over time. The model performed well, though prediction performance differed for each label. The values of precision were 0.59 for “treatment,” 0.82 for “physical,” 0.64 for “psychological,” 0.67 for “work/financial,” and 0.58 for “family/friends.” The higher the interannotator agreement and the greater the number of posts, the higher the precision tended to be. Conclusions: This study showed that the BERT model can extract multiple worries from text generated from patients with breast cancer. This is the first application of a multilabel classifier using the BERT model to extract multiple worries from patient-generated text. The results will be helpful to identify breast cancer patients’ worries and give them timely social support.
ASJC Scopus subject areas