Caution Before Clicking About Cancer


In spending so many hours online, I came to see that much of what I was reading was opinions and, in fact, not facts at all.

I hear people say frequently, "I read somewhere…" That, to me, is the problem. No matter what you are seeking, the internet has a vast amount of knowledge that you can browse. While some sites are monitored and fact-checked for content, many other sites about medicine and treatment options aren't. They are self-posted advice blogs, privy for any eyes that happen upon them.

It doesn't matter where you stand on an issue or belief, you can find something online that aligns with your own feelings. When my sister was battling cancer, I become a researcher. I sought answers to the many things that I did not yet understand about cancer. But in spending so many hours online, I came to see that much of what I was reading was opinions and, in fact, not facts at all.

I researched most when my sister was sickest. When her team would give us bad news or when we were told that the end was possibly near, I felt that I couldn't sit idly by and do nothing. I turned to the internet to connect with others and sometimes, to get second opinions when I didn't want to believe the diagnosis that she was facing.

Having worked with many cancer charities, it was hardest to see people falsify a story to garner money or attention. When one faces cancer, or loses a loved one to the disease, they often seek a way to do good in their memory. Abusing the generosity of somebody who may have lost a loved one is unconscionable to me.

It is often said that what is read online cannot always be trusted; but when one is in a vulnerable place in their lives, they are reaching for a solution, and a miracle of sorts that does not always come when one has cancer. This article is not to suggest that people don't research when cancer comes into your life or that they do not seek alternatives to medications for simple complications such as nausea. But before stopping treatment that is prescribed by an oncologist, it is important to have a discussion with the care team.

Yes, it can be intimidating, but it is necessary. When I found ideas online, I had close friends and nurses to discuss them with, as well as a team of world-class doctors that I could bring treatment suggestions to and know that they would consider them all.

But having a rapport with the care team be challenging. You do not have to get along with them all — god knows I didn't. Regardless, an open dialogue is important so that you can discuss any and all options that they, and you, the patient or caregiver, may want to pursue during the cancer journey.

I think we inherently are a species of wonder. Living in a technological age means that when we wonder, and a potential solution to our curiosity is just a few clicks away. While it can be a great place to gain knowledge and understanding — especially when it comes to cancer – I would just encourage that we all utilize caution before clicking.

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Dr. Kelly Stratton
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