The Internet gives us the ability to do our own breast cancer research, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Most of us do not know much about breast cancer until we ourselves are diagnosed with the disease. Then we go to our computers and begin searching madly for answers when we are not even sure of the questions to ask.
We look to find something, anything to make us feel better; to restore some sense of control over lives. If we are lucky, we find ourselves on a reputable site that has accurate information about breast cancer explained in a way we can understand.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of Internet sites that offer incorrect, misleading and deceptive information about breast cancer, its treatment and outcomes. Landing on these sites and taking what they say as gospel can cause confusion and anxiety.
If you or a loved one are recently diagnosed with breast cancer the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the National Cancer Institute (www.nci.nih.gov), have websites on the Internet and they are good places to begin your research. These reputable sites provide information you can trust on treatment, cancer screening programs and cancer support groups.
Once diagnosed and referred to a surgeon and a treatment facility, you can do your homework and use the Internet to find websites that will give you information about the qualifications of the surgeon and the reputation of the treatment facility.
Once in treatment, you can search the Internet to find a support group to attend in your home community. If you are not feeling up to being physically present in a support group, there are sites that can give you information about corresponding with other survivors via email. Some organizations offer access to telephone support groups.
What makes much of the information on the Internet questionable is that there are no quality control guidelines or restraints on the health care information or advice provided online.
What does this mean for you? Unfortunately, it may mean that the burden of sorting out who is who is up you. How do you, when just diagnosed and in a state of anxiety, differentiate between legitimate health care organizations, those individuals who have sites and want to be of help but are misinformed, and groups engaged in health fraud?
Another danger resulting from no quality control of health care information on the Internet is it can lead to a person drawing conclusions that are not accurate for her type of breast cancer.
When you choose to gather breast cancer information on the Internet err on the side of caution and :
- Look for sites that are known breast cancer organizations or medical institutions.
- When you get to a site, check for facts, not opinions. It’s only natural to want to find alternative treatments to the one that have been recommended for you but remember the standard treatments are standard because they have a track record of success.
- Don’t form opinions or make decisions on your own, but review all information with a health professional. Remember that what applies to one person may not apply to you.
- Be sure to tell your doctor if you are thinking of trying other therapies. Some alternative therapies can be dangerous.