According to results recently published in the British Medical Journal, information shared by Internet cancer support groups for breast cancer appears to be highly accurate.

Approximately half of patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer use the Internet to find information regarding their disease. Internet cancer support groups allow sharing of experiences, concerns, questions, and advice between cancer patients, survivors, their caregivers, and families. Information regarding new treatment options, as well as emotional support, is often found through Internet support groups. Individuals may remain anonymous if they wish.

Due to the widespread use of Internet-based information, healthcare providers have become concerned about the accuracy and reliability of information found through Internet cancer support groups. Given these concerns, researchers from the University of Texas recently conducted a study to evaluate the accuracy of shared information on Internet cancer support groups for breast cancer. This study included 4,600 postings that were made between January and April of 2005 on breast cancer Internet support groups.

  • The information in the postings was highly accurate.
  • Only 0.22% of postings had false or misleading information.
  • 70% of the false or misleading postings were corrected by other participants in the support groups within a median time of four hours and 33 minutes.

The researchers concluded that Internet support groups providing information on breast cancer were highly accurate with less than 1% of postings containing misleading or false information. Furthermore, the majority of the misleading or false information was corrected at a median of less than five hours. Patients or survivors of breast cancer or caregivers of a patient with breast cancer may find useful guidance though Internet support groups.

Reference: Esquivel A, Meric-Bernstam F, Berstam E. Accuracy and Self Correction of Information Received from an Internet Breast Cancer List: Content Analysis. British Medical Journal. 2006;332:939-942.

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