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Parents of children with cancer distrust and fear online sources of health information, study shows
Date:3/21/2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Parents and adult caregivers of pediatric cancer patients prefer personal consultations with trusted health care providers over online sources for information about their child's illness, according to a University at Buffalo research study.

Despite the accessibility of online medical information, the UB study found that parents not only distrusted information found through the Internet, they often feared what types of information they might encounter.

"Respondents were telling us they were uncertain of the information online and that they were afraid of the unknown," says study co-author Elizabeth Gage, PhD, professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions. "They didn't want to run into stories about 'the worst case scenario.'"

Gage, along with Christina Panagakis, a graduate student in sociology at UB, and colleagues at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, interviewed 41 parents of pediatric cancer patients in the U.S. to learn how caregivers use the Internet as an information source about their child's illness, its prognosis and potential treatment options.

The study, "The Devil You Know: Parental Online Information Seeking after a Pediatric Cancer Diagnosis," will appear in the May issue of Sociology of Health and Illness.

Beyond a distrust and fear of health-related Internet sites, the study's findings also suggest that online searching for information about an illness might vary between patients dealing with routine conditions and those faced with life-threatening problems.

"The likelihood of a patient going online might depend very much on context," Gage explains.

Previous studies looked at what Gage described as routine, contested or stigmatized illnesses, while her research contributes a piece of knowledge relative to severe pediatric illnesses.

"One of the reasons we were interested in exploring this issue is that so much research and media cove
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Contact: Bert Gambini
gambini@buffalo.edu
716-645-5334
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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