Information on the Internet ranges from excellent, cutting-edge data based on evidence to downright wrong and dangerous personal opinions and sales pitches. You’ll do best sticking to sites that are connected to
- government (.gov)
- universities (.edu)
- or not-for-profit organizations (.org)
Remember, if it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t
— either good or true.
Finding Reliable Websites
The following sites are comprehensive, evidence-based, and reviewed for accuracy by health professionals.
- The National Cancer Institute has clearly written, easy-to-understand information about colorectal cancer including good illustrations of human anatomy. You can also call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 800-4-CANCER to talk to a health information specialist. Información en español
- The American Cancer Society has a slightly less detailed, yet fully informative web site that provides information from risk factors through diagnosis, staging, and treatment to moving on after cancer.
- Cancer.Net is a patient information site from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Information is reviewed by both health professionals and patient advocates and is edited for readability. En español
- MEDLINE PLUS, a web-based service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, has an extensive list of links to information about colorectal cancer. They also provide multimedia slide show tutorials for colorectal cancer, surgery, colonoscopy, and colostomy.
- CancerGuide was developed by kidney cancer survivor Steve Dunn. Different from more professionally designed web sites, it was one of the early places on the web that provided information for people with cancer. Steve researched and wrote it himself, adding his personal experience. After surviving metastatic cancer, Steve died in 2005 from an unrelated disease. His friends have kept the site going and current. You’ll find good advice, humor, evidence-based information, and many survivor stories on CancerGuide.
Watch Out for Cancer Website Red Flags
- Is online purchasing permitted?
- Are “patient testimonials” available?
- Is the treatment described as a “cancer cure”?
- Is the treatment described as “having no side effects”?
From a study by Scott Matthews MD and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, Cancer Center.
Ask Who Pays for the Site
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reminds us that websites cost money. What is the goal of the site — and how does that affect the quality and balance of site information. NCCAM says,
It costs money to run a Web site. The source of a Web site’s funding should be clearly stated or readily apparent. For example, Web addresses (such as NCCAM’s) ending in “.gov” denote a government sponsored site; “.edu” indicates an educational institution, “.org” a noncommercial organization, and “.com” a commercial organization. You should know how the site pays for its existence. Does it sell advertising? Is it sponsored by a drug company? The source of funding can affect what content is presented, how the content is presented, and what the site owners want to accomplish on the site.
Where Can You Go for More Information?
Ten Things to Know About Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web
from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has an entire site focused on finding good information about healthcare and avoiding scams and frauds. Who Cares: Sources of Information about Health Care Products and Services includes an excellent article on How to Find Health Information Online.