Get the Facts Before Using Online Information

Cancer
Jessica Titherington

You may have read about special foods, exercise plans, nutritional supplements– or diets that exclude a specific food – to prevent cancer growth. The internet and social media platforms can be an excellent way to share new medical, health, and nutrition information with everyone. However, sometimes this information may be shared by people who are not knowledgeable on the topic, and some claims can be misinterpreted by readers or even worse, they are just not true.

If you have read an article that claims that you should or should not be doing something to treat your cancer, do not panic! Your healthcare providers have worked hard to design a personalized treatment plan for you, and we hope that with the tips outlined below, you can better decide what to make of the health claims that you come across online.

Tip #1:  Look at the website that the article is posted on. Credible sources are posted by educational institutions, organizations, or governmental institutions and often end in one of the following: “.edu” “.org” or “.gov”

In comparison, some websites, like Science Daily or Medical News Today are not reviewed by professional authors and can be edited by anyone. You see, this is where some of the misinterpretations can come in!

Tip #2: Try to find the author of the article that you are reading. Credible sources will often list the author’s name in a location that is easy to find: either directly beneath the title or at the very end of the post. Here you can evaluate the author’s credentials: are they a physician (MD or DO), dietitian (RD, LDN), nurse (RN, NP), doctorate researcher (PhD), or other qualified healthcare professional? In general, if you cannot find the author’s name or if there are a bunch of advertisements on the side panels of the webpage, be careful with the information you are reading! 

Tip #3: Be a skeptical reader. Ask yourself as you read: “Does this make sense to me?” A great place to search for more information on the topic is the MedlinePlus.gov website, which is written by healthcare professionals specifically for patients. If it sounds too good to be true or suggests that this one action can cure cancer- be skeptical.

Tip #4: Always talk to your healthcare provider before you make any kind of changes to your lifestyle to try to beat cancer, even if the information you found is published on a credible website. Please do not be afraid to bring the information that you find online to your next appointment. Your healthcare team will be happy to answer any questions that you have and help decide which recommendations are best for you and your health!


Jessie Titherington is a third-year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine and graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology and Physiology. Prior to beginning medical school, she performed research in Radiation Oncology and worked closely with breast cancer patients as a Medical Scribe. In addition, she is an ACE certified Group Fitness Instructor and enjoys running, fishing, and spending time at the beach in her free time. She has also volunteered her time to help support the Virtual Physical Activity Group for Breast Cancer Survivors at Penn Medicine and hopes to practice in the field of oncology in her future career as a physician.

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