Where do you go for your cancer-related info?

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Even though more people are heading to the Internet as their first source to get cancer-related information, a recent survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute shows that 60 to 64 percent of Americans trust their doctors more. In fact, the survey also shows that between 2002 and 2008, the trust in the Internet for information has declined. Around 50 percent of the respondents said they preferred going to their doctor for specific health information. But when asked where they actually went first, approximately 50 percent said online, and only about 10 percent of patients went to their doctors first. The Internet, the survey writers note, has the advantage of being convenient as an initial source for disease information, but ultimately patients rely on their doctors to help interpret it. This makes perfect sense to me. I mean, while you can find just about anything you need to know (and most likely more than you want to know) on the Internet, for me it often feels like information overload. When I conduct cancer-related searches on the Internet, I instantly feel like I'm in one of those Bing commercials. I say (or type) the word "cancer," and suddenly I'm bombarded with a litany of related, and often unrelated, options. The Internet may be able to provide access to lots of information on cancer--but it doesn't always direct you to what you need.

(Learn how to find reliable websites by reading "Cancer Information Online.") The NCI's Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) is conducted about every two years, and surveys between 4,000 to 6,000 adults nationwide to study how people access and use cancer-related information. The survey also showed that while the Internet may not be the most trusted source for cancer patients, it serves as a good communication portal between patients and doctors. Based on those surveyed, a growing number of patients use e-mail to discuss and share health information with their doctors.In a letter, published in the March 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers wrote: "These data on the changes that are being enabled by national investments in health-information technology indicate that accessing health information online does not appear to reduce trust in physicians, as some observers have feared. Trust may actually be increasing as consumers rely on their physicians to interpret the confusing nature of online information."

[Patterns in Respondents' Trust in and Use of Sources of Health Information, 2002–2008.

Source: The New England Journal of Medicine.]