Breast Cancer & the Internet
Over the past several years, the Internet has become an important resource for information gathering. This technology has potential to inform and educate the public about health and medical care. However, the Internet is also full of incorrect, misleading and deceptive information that may cause harm. Cancer information on the Internet is of particular concern.
Benefits of cancer information on the internet
Because of the nature of breast and other types of cancer, most people do not know very much about cancer until they are directly affected by it. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the Internet may be the initial way that you research your condition. It can quickly and easily provide you with information about cancer and its potential treatments.
Many reputable cancer-related health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org), National Comprehensive Cancer Network (www.nccn.org)and the National Cancer Institute (www.nci.nih.gov), have websites on the Internet. These sites provide reliable and impartial information on topics including treatment, unique technology, experimental trials, cancer screening programs, and cancer support groups.
A website can also help you research available services and physician qualifications, making it easier to decide on the right medical institution for your care. Also, some websites provide services that allow you to directly request information about your specific condition.
Risks of cancer information on the internet
Unfortunately, much of the information on the Internet also comes with major, and potentially harmful, drawbacks. There is no quality control of the health care information or advice provided on the Internet. This means that highly respected health care organizations, well-intentioned but misinformed individuals, and groups engaged in health care fraud, might all look alike on a computer screen. This leaves a relatively uninformed public alone to try to sort through the information and determine fact from fiction.
Another result of the lack of quality control of health care content is information that is true but leads to misleading conclusions. Such is the case of a person who reads about a particular treatment on the Internet and, without fully understanding all aspects of it, determines that this is the best treatment for him or her. As a result, the person may insist on a treatment that has no impact on the disease while possibly foregoing more effective treatment.
Tips for gathering cancer information on the internet
- Look for sites that are affiliated with known organizations or medical institutions.
- Use extreme caution when reviewing information. Look for facts, not opinions. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Review the information with a health care professional. What applies to one person may not apply to you.
- Always let your health care provider know if you are thinking of trying other therapies as some can be dangerous.