Guest blog by Kathleen Hoffman
From understanding your symptoms, determining which doctor to see and getting a diagnosis, to finding out your treatment options and dealing with the aftermath, the demand for information dominates every step of your journey as a patient.
If you’re like most people, you turn to the Internet for answers to your health questions. But when you enter the term colon cancer into a Google search, you get over 30 million hits. It’s overwhelming!
How does the average person know what to read? How do you know what information is reliable? How do you know the content is up-to-date? How do you determine if the information you are reading pertains to your specific circumstances? Do you remain concerned that there is information out there that might help you and you cannot find?
Here are a few tips to help you in your search.
1.) Check to see if the original source is listed
In the age of fake news and alternative facts, it can be vital to know the original source of information. A warning sign that the information is not trustworthy is if the source is anonymous, or itself may not be a credible scientific/medical source.
2.) Verify the information is scientific and supported by facts
Once you know the source, you need to verify it is respected and reliable. Websites ending in .gov are US government websites and are considered reliable. Websites ending in .edu and associated with medical universities are also reliable sources for health information.
With .com websites, it is important to look for the About section to find out the credentials of the people who created the website. Search for the Mission statement and, if you input information on your health, be sure to read how the company uses your information. What privacy protections are in place? Is the website HIPAA compliant?
3.) Find the date
Is the information current? Reputable sources will provide a date when their material was posted. If there isn’t a date associated with the content, be wary.
4.) Search for Medical Journal Articles
Even with these guidelines, how can you be sure that the health information is up-to-date? One way is by looking for recent research on PubMed. As you can see, thousands of articles are written every year about colon cancer.
Medical Journal Articles Catalogued on MEDLINE by Subject and Year
Search Term: Colorectal Cancer
And these are only the medical journal articles indexed on MEDLINE; there are journals not catalogued there.
5.) Utilize Medivizor, a free and private service
Of course, medical journals are written primarily for researchers and expert doctors – not for lay people. Now, however, there is a free service that can provide up-to-date “translations” of medical journal articles and other medical advancements such as clinical trials and updated guidelines, all of it personalized especially for your individual circumstance, and sent directly to your inbox. It is called Medivizor.com.
Here is an example of a recent article on colon cancer called Do right and left-sided colon cancers have different prognostics? It is an up-to-300-word plain language summary of an article from the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, dated November 2015 entitled The Worse Prognosis of Right-Sided Compared with Left-Sided Colon Cancers: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
Medivizor has the potential to help many coping with a serious or chronic illness, such as colon cancer. That is why the Colon Cancer Coalition has partnered with them and included the site in our “Useful Links” section. There you can also find additional sites and links to other relevant sources.
Kathleen Hoffman, PhD, is a communications professional, social scientist, writer and educator who develops evidence-based digital communications focused on the human side of healthcare. She is a leader in the movement of healthcare empowerment for both the patient and the provider. Through her innovative research practices and personal interactions with healthcare consumers and providers, Kathleen demystifies today’s often-confusing healthcare environment with a combination of empirical data and the very real human stories that live and breathe within the statistics.
As Blogger-In-Residence and Social Media Specialist at the Medivizor blog, Kathleen focuses on the experiences of patients with chronic conditions, translating medical jargon to everyday language.