Researching cancer online

December 26, 2017

When a friend, family member or someone you care for has been diagnosed with cancer it can be a very emotional time. While your provider will probably supply you with or direct you toward resources, you may want to go out and find information on your own. With technological advances, a very common way to find information is via the internet.

However, when you type cancer into Google, you get millions of results, which is an overwhelming amount of information. How do you know where to start? How do you know which information is accurate and credible?

To help lower your risk of reading material that contains false, biased or misleading information you need to keep some things in mind before beginning to read a website or article.

Website domain name

When researching, it is important to be aware of what a website’s domain name is. The domain name of a website is the last three letters at the end of a web address. For example, if you see a website ending in .gov it means that it is a government run website. A website ending in .edu is a university or educational institute. One ending in .com is a commercial site and .org is owned by an organization, usually a nonprofit but any organization can own an .org domain.

Which of these is most reliable? 

.gov has the most guidelines and is generally reliable information. .edu is also very reliable; however, students can sometimes contribute to .edu so it is always a good idea to check authors. 

Author

When searching specifically for health-related information, it is important to check either the author of a source or the reviewer of the source. When researching health-related topics, the author should have some sort of medical or research credentials listed after their name. Credentials are a broad term that can refer to a practitioner’s license, certification or education. Credentials are granted by government agencies when a practitioner has completed all the required schooling or training necessary for their field. An example of a profession with credentials is a medical doctor; after their name M.D. would be listed. Another example would be an RN or registered nurse.

Date

When scrolling the internet for information it is important to pay attention to when an article or website was published or the date it was last revised. New research is always being done, especially in the area of cancer, and the field has changed a lot, even in as little as the last ten years. So always try to find a publication that has a relatively recent date so you can be certain the information you read is current.

Bias

You should also take into consideration the purpose of the article and even the funder of the article. Is this article biased? Was it funded by a business who is trying to get you to purchase something? Finally, is the publication from an author or institution you can trust? Generally, websites from government agencies or institutions are a better resource than a website like Wikipedia where anyone is allowed to post and make changes on it.

Reliable cancer websites

Center for Disease Control (CDC): The CDC is a federal agency that strives to protect the health of individuals nationwide. They work to prevent disease outbreaks, increase prevention resources and track disease statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/

National Cancer Institute (NCI): The NCI is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. Because of this, the NCI can provide accurate and up-to-date cancer information. https://www.cancer.gov/

The American Cancer Society (ACS): The ACS is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. It provides local programs, services and events in several communities. www.cancer.org

Other resources

Swedish Cancer Education Centers: These Cancer Education Centers can provide you with free, reliable educational materials. They also have health educators or volunteers who can assist you in finding material appropriate for you either in the education center or online.

Issaquah Swedish Cancer Institute Cancer Education Center
751 NE Blakely Drive, Issaquah, WA 98026
425-313-4485

First Hill Swedish Cancer Institute Cancer Education Center
1221 Madison St., A-Floor West, Seattle, WA 98104
206-215-6557

Edmonds Swedish Cancer Institute Cancer Education Center
21632 Highway 99, 2nd floor, Edmonds, WA 98026
425-673-8300


This article is from Life to the Fullest, the newsletter from the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) dedicated to those with cancer, cancer survivors, and their family members and caregivers.
Topics: Cancer