Dr Google causes concern for Macmillan Cancer Support

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Charity Macmillan Cancer Support has said it is concerned patients are turning to the internet for information about the disease, leaving them feeling confused and depressed.

Research from the charity, based on a YouGov survey of 2,000 people with cancer in the UK, revealed 39% look online for information about their diagnosis, and of these 27% feel anxious, depressed or confused afterwards.

Macmillan attributes the worrying habit of scouring the web to the confusion that comes with a diagnosis,highlighted by the fact that one in three people (34%) recently diagnosed felt overwhelmed by information and the top reasons for googling being to look for more information (75% of those who looked online gave this as a reason) and to find out about their prognosis (56%).

Dr Rosie Loftus, chief medical officer at Macmillan, said: “In today’s digital society, it is understandable that people look up their diagnosis online when they’re told they have cancer.

“However, it is extremely concerning that such a high number of people who turn to the internet for support are presented with such a seemingly negative outlook.

“It is vital people with cancer are supported from day one. This not only depends on the cancer workforce having the time and capacity to fully explain what a diagnosis means, but also signposting people to reputable sources to ensure they start their cancer experience on the right foot.”

In 2017, the charity introduced its first digital nurse to support its online community. Ellen McPake’s job, is dedicated to answering questions online to help those affected by cancer, via social media platforms and the charity’s online community.

Responding to the research, Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer, added: “Going online is a quick and popular way to find information, but it is vital that internet and social media platforms help people find reliable sources of information, and not those promoting myths and ‘miracle cures’ which at best don’t help, and at worst put people’s lives at risk.

“As part of our Long Term Plan we are rolling out a faster diagnosis standard so that people get certainty sooner, and investing in more clinical nurse specialists and other professionals to ensure people get more personalised cancer care, including information they can trust.”

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