The internet is a key information source for individuals with cancer, and the use of both websites and social media for this purpose has been rising in recent years. Information abounds on symptoms, treatments, and other topics. So does misinformation. “There is a lot of mixed information on the sea of the internet,” Aisha Langford, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of population health at the New York University School of Medicine, told Cancer Therapy Advisor.
“More and more patients are using the internet,” said Christian Keinki, MD, MSc, an internist at the German Cancer Society in Berlin, in an interview with Cancer Therapy Advisor. “And they’re searching for information.”
Physicians remain the preferred, most trusted source of health facts, but in recent years, the internet has equaled or surpassed their importance. Internet use by cancer survivors rose 25% between 2005 and 2017, according to one study.1 In a survey by Dr Keinki and colleagues of 398 users of cancer-themed Facebook groups, 77.4% used the internet for information, compared with 62.1% who learned from oncologists.2
Patients most often use internet research shortly after diagnosis, and while waiting for treatment.1 They may seek information not provided during doctor’s appointments. That can be beneficial, Dr Keinki said. Patients are more informed and can make collaborative treatment decisions with their doctors as a result. In fact, studies suggest that better-informed patients benefit from improved awareness, higher adherence to treatments, and better clinical outcomes.2