Evaluating Cancer Information
Reading about cancer is a perfect example of the best and the worst of the Web. On the positive side, it is often very helpful to find information about types of cancer, treatments, medical centers, and to connect with others. On the other hand, there is a lot of incorrect and scary information (see recent posts), and it can be hard to distinguish truth from myth--especially when you are vulnerable.
This is a good tip list from ASCO re how to tell the good from the bad:
"Reprinted with permission. © 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. www.Cancer.Net
Evaluating Cancer Information on the Internet
Last Updated: August 23, 2010
The Internet is a useful tool for finding information about cancer and connecting with other patients and caregivers. However, it can be difficult to find credible, reliable information about cancer causes, risk factors, treatment, and recovery. Because Internet content is not regulated, you need to use good judgment when searching online. Consider the following questions when viewing cancer information websites:
Who operates the website? The person or organization that operates the website should be identified throughout. This way, users know the source and purpose of the information, for example, whether it is educating people about a disease or selling a product. Find the "About Us" section to learn more about who operates the site, and use this information to help you judge the material.
Who is responsible for the website's content? Reliable websites tell you who edits and approves the content (such as an editorial board) and how to contact the organization that operates the website. For example, the About Us section on Cancer.Net includes a list of Cancer.Net Editorial Board members—
including more than 150 medical, surgical, radiation, and pediatric oncologists, oncology nurses, social workers, and patient advocates—and the seal of approval from the Health On the Net (HON) Foundation,
an organization that established a code of conduct for health and medical websites. The "Contact Us" link provides users with an address, phone number, and e-mail address to reach the Cancer.Net editorial staff.
Be cautious when reading information posted on discussion groups or bulletin boards because this part of the website may not be regularly reviewed or updated.
Who funds the website?gt; A website's financial backing may affect how information is presented. This is called bias. High-quality websites make it easy to tell the difference between advertisements and medical
information. Avoid websites that try to promote a specific medication or treatment over another.
Where do they get their information? Reliable cancer information is based on scientific evidence and not personal feelings or experiences. When learning about treatment options, look for links or references to research studies. If information is based on an opinion, it should be clearly labeled. Be cautious about scientific-sounding material that has no data to support it.
How current is the information on the website? Cancer information changes quickly as researchers learn more about the various cancer types and develop new treatments. Thus, information that is several years old
may no longer be accurate. Look for a date at the beginning or end of an article, which will tell you when the article was last posted or reviewed.
Does the website have a linking policy? Links may take you to other websites on the Internet. Be aware that the new website may not have the same standards as the one you left. Some sites have a policy of only linking to websites that meet specific criteria, while other sites may include links to any website. Read
Cancer.Net's linking policy.
What does your doctor say? Discuss information you find on the Internet with your doctor or health care provider. Your doctor can help you evaluate the information and determine whether it applies to you.
Ask your doctor to suggest reliable websites.
Bookmark the websites you like and check back often for new information.
Trust your judgment if something you read does not seem right or seems too good to be true.