Cancer Online: How Much Information is Too Much?

Our computersThis is sort of a tricky topic, but it really needs to be addressed:

On the one hand, it is very helpful for patients to learn what they can about their condition, to be active participants in their own care. And Web-based access to information has made this do-able in a way never before possible.

On the other hand, it is very important for patients to understand pitfalls that await them out there when they look up the myriad pertinent facts relating to their diagnosis. It is vital for patients and family members to realize that not everything they read is accurate, or properly presented in context.

Even more importantly, perhaps, is to understand that what may seem pertinent is not necessarily applicable to their particular situation. For example, the choices pertaining to which treatment to take and when to do certain tests (a PET scan, for example) vary significantly from patient to patient, depending on stage, age, and other medical conditions.

Sorting all that out is largely beyond the capability of anyone new to oncology, regardless of how urgent their interest.

Recently, I had an older couple lament to me, “There is just too much information out here. We can’t figure it all out!”

They’re right. There’s simply way too much information for the uninitiated to digest and comprehend. It takes time to learn complex material; so I advise patients to take their time. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself and cure cancer on your own. Remember that thousands of dedicated researchers and doctors have been at this for a long, long time.

Above all, recognize that sorting things out is your doctor’s job. Part of that involves explaining to you most or all of what you need to know. It also involves helping to guide your own explorations through all the information now available. I spend a lot of time in my office explaining to patients or their family members why/how/what they read online is relevant, or could be.

In the meantime, always remember that the biggest problem has been solved already for you: you and your undying soul will triumph in the end!

What are some of your favorite Websites for cancer information and resources? Please comment below. I’m always curious to discover new, helpful resources online.

Photo Source: By aranarth

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