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Review of online breast cancer information encourages healthy skepticism for consumers
Date:2/10/2008

HOUSTON - In an extended analysis of Web pages dedicated to disseminating breast cancer information, researchers at two University of Texas institutions in the Houston have determined that while most breast cancer data found online was accurate, one in 20 breast cancer Web pages featured inaccuracies and sites displaying complementary and alternative medicine were 15 times more likely to contain false or misleading health information.

Published in the March 15 issue of Cancer and online today, the study was conducted by The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in collaboration with researchers at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston (SHIS) as one of a series of studies to determine whether existing quality assessment tools can identify false or inaccurate breast cancer information available online.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project estimates that more patients seek health information online rather than visit a physician.

According to Funda Meric-Bernstam, M.D., associate professor of surgery at M. D. Anderson, many of her patients have gone on the Internet for education and are savvy in their breast cancer knowledge even before their first appointment with her.

"Often it's clearly a benefit. For example, I've had patients who were recommended mastectomies that were really breast conservation candidates. They actually figured this out by going online and then seeking out surgeons capable of performing the surgery," says Meric-Bernstam, the study's senior and corresponding author. "In contrast, there are times patients read about treatments that clearly do not apply to them, which can increase their level of anxiety or expectations for a treatment that they are not a candidate for. Of course, one also worries about patients who go online and then ultimately do not seek out any treatment despite it being necessary."

In total, 343 Web pages, retrieved using sea
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Contact: Laura Sussman
lsussman@mdanderson.org
713-745-2457
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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