Today the vast majority of us have access to a computer as well as the Internet. Thanks to powerful search engines we all have easy access to the world, including to an explosion of information about our health. The fact that you are reading this blog is the best example I could offer.
However, in many ways the flood of information on the Internet is very similar to the “Wild West” where anybody can write anything they desire. Commercial interests are often hidden in what seems like fair and balanced articles and sometimes the author is wrong about what they write despite their good intentions.
On the other hand, there is often excellent information online. The good information can be exceptional, enhancing a person’s life by assisting them in making better decisions. The Internet can be both positive and it can also be negative! Understanding how to sort out the good information from the bad is an important skill.
- Always remember that anyone can post anything on the Web. Always read things with a level of cynicism because there are no guarantee that what you are reading is factual.
- Look at the end of the Web address. Addresses ending in .org, .gov or .edu might be more reliable then those ending in .com. However, even the first group of addresses might not be good sources.
- Put significant stock in the Web information from the organizations you are familiar with, like Malecare. Large, better-known, national organizations and professional bodies like the American Urological Association (AUA) and the American Society of Clinical Oncologist (ASCO) are excellent examples. Also, governmental organizations like the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) will also have reliable information on their Web site.
- Non-profit organizations like Malecare, and the Pancreatic Cancer Network offer excellent information, programs and resources.
- Personal accounts and stories, both those you are told directly and those on the Web should be screened and evaluate carefully. You don’t know if the stories are factual and even if they are one person’s individual experience is nothing more then that, one person’s individual experience.
- Remember that statistics only predict the group trend. They do not predict what might be your individual experience. The only statistic that really matters is the statistic of one, you and you never know what the outcome will be until you go there.
- Published research and statistics can be old. In the world of cancer, things do change quickly, so always make sure you know if what you are reading is still up to date.
Have some trusted resources to discuss what you learn from the Web. Talk to your doctor, send research that you uncover and ask for their feedback. Does this apply to me? Does this make sense for me? Why and why not? These are questions you should always be asking.