Health Misinformation: How to Find Reliable Resources Online


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In a world where so much information is at our fingertips, seeking out reliable and accurate resources for details, facts, and even advice about colorectal cancer is crucial to making informed decisions. How do you navigate colorectal cancer misinformation? How do you know what’s trustworthy and correct?

We know what it’s like to fend off snake oil salespersons who offer dubious-sounding medical information and potions promising to cure cancer.

Here’s some real-world advice for sleuthing out misinformation and finding accurate, reliable, trustworthy information about colorectal cancer—especially online.

Where to start?

You’re not alone if your first temptation and step was to check in with “Dr. Google.” It’s natural to turn to search engines (and even social media!) when we’re looking for information. Cancer is no exception. Most patients have turned to Google to understand their diagnosis and learn about symptoms, treatments, survivorship, and more.

But, if you’re going to use Google, do so wisely. Keep in mind that people are unique and not everyone responds to medications, treatments, and surgeries the same way. No matter where you find your information online, check in and discuss with your medical team because they know you more personally than the internet. Don’t diagnose yourself, and don’t try to plan your own treatment in a bubble that includes you and Google. Run everything you find online past your medical team.

What makes sources reliable?

Reliable colorectal cancer information often comes from reputable medical websites. Look for sites affiliated with government health agencies, well-known medical institutions, and national nonprofits. Check for sources ending in .gov, .org, or .edu. Here are some we recommend:

  • Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC): (That’s us!) We are a national advocacy nonprofit that fights to cure colorectal cancer and serves as relentless champions of hope for all affected by this disease through informed patient support, impactful policy change, and breakthrough research endeavors. The educational information on our website has been medically reviewed by health care professionals. 
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI): The NCI, a government health agency, is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NCI’s comprehensive resources cover everything from colorectal cancer basics to the latest research and clinical trials. 
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC, another government agency, provides evidence-based guidelines, statistics, and educational materials related to colorectal cancer and public health.
  • Well-known Medical Institutes: You can’t go wrong visiting websites of NCI-Designated Cancer Centers. These medical facilities provide reliable and reputable information. They are known for their commitment to patient care and medical expertise.
  • American Cancer Society: This flagship nonprofit offers research, advocacy, and support for all cancer types and is a great resource for all colorectal cancer patients.

Do's and don'ts to help you avoid misinformation online

We’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you navigate the maze of colorectal cancer misinformation online. One important thing to remember is there is no miracle cure for colorectal cancer. Recently there have been some research breakthroughs but remember: All of them have gone through the FDA-approval process. Here are some more things to consider when searching online:


  • Verify the source: Be sure to stick to well-known medical institutions, government health agencies, and reputable colorectal cancer organizations. Look for affiliations and accreditations. Generally, you can find these in the “About Us” or “Quality and Safety” sections. Another suggestion is to look at the footer sections of their websites. If you’re still not able to verify affiliation or accreditation, reach out to these sites and ask using the “Contact Us” section.
  • Check out online medical journals, and publications: Websites like PubMed, JAMA Network, and BMJ offer access to a wealth of peer-reviewed articles and studies. For people who prefer in-depth and evidence-based information, academic journals and medical publications are valuable resources. The language is technical, but these sources provide reliable information grounded in scientific research.
  • Look for medically reviewed content: Seeking medically reviewed content on websites is important for ensuring the accuracy, trustworthiness, and reliability of health information and plays a critical role in promoting informed decision-making and patient safety. Many websites who value medical editorial review will state who wrote the article, who reviewed it, the last date of review, etc., near the bottom of the article. Many medical sites also have editorial boards who medically review content.
  • Cross-reference information: Verify facts with more than one source. When you find consistent information, you will find credible information.
  • Consult with your health care team: Always consult your health care team for personalized advice and information tailored specifically to you. Print out what you’re reading, and/or save the link on your phone so you can quickly pull it up at your next appointment.


  • Rely solely on personal stories: There’s no doubt that personal stories are powerful and inspiring. But they’re not a substitute for evidence-based information. Use them cautiously and as a secondary source. It’s great if stories give you hope and ideas about what to ask your doctor, but your case is your case.
  • Trust unverified websites: Be cautious with websites that are vague and lack verifiable sources, lack citations, or post anonymous or sensational information. If a site doesn’t seem credible, it’s probably not. Do not trust any website that lacks “https” in the URL.
  • Believe in miracle cures that claim to cure cancer: Beware of any website or person that promises you a cure for colorectal cancer. Treatments need to go through the FDA-approval process for the safety of patients. It’s OK to keep an open mind and try complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) (after consulting with your medical team), but we recommend using CAM in addition to the standard of care, not in lieu of it.
  • Ignore publication dates: New research is evolving and emerging each day. Be sure to see when the information you’re devouring has been published or updated to be sure it is current and relevant.
  • Disregard your health care team: Remember your medical team is on your side and in this battle with you. Keep in mind they are always the ones equipped to assess your symptoms or health care issues or problems. They truly know you best.

Combatting misinformation in online communities

One of the best things about online communities is that they’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. The colorectal cancer community is tight-knit and supportive. But while online forums and communities can provide valuable support, they also carry risks of misinformation. Here are some tips for engaging in these platforms:

  • Seek moderated forums: Seek out groups that have active moderators. A moderated forum helps ensure a supportive environment and the exchange of reliable information.
  • Know that size matters: Keep in mind if you become a member of an online group with 20,000 or more people, the chances of all misinformation being caught and stopped is slim. In large online forums, misinformation may spread like wildfire. Consider joining smaller online communities such as Community of Champions or Colontown.
  • Validate information shared: You know that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, and this applies to online communities as well. Be sure to cross-check any information or advice received in online forums with reputable sources before applying it to your life and circumstances.
  • Use forums for support: Online forums are amazing for providing emotional support but remember: They don’t take the place of your medical team. It’s fine to use these groups to compile questions to ask your medical team, and they’re also great resources to find people who understand what you’re going through. They may be able to offer suggestions of what has worked well for them. But don’t depend on other’s experiences to mirror yours exactly.
    • Remember to consult your health care team for conversations and recommendations for your care.  

Equip yourself with knowledge and avoid misinformation 

By navigating the internet with a critical eye, you can equip yourself with knowledge, which arms you to make informed decisions and avoid misinformation.

It’s OK to be empowered, even if you feel bold asking your medical team about a new drug or treatment you may have read about online or learned about from your colorectal cancer community. You are a partner in your health care, and you have a very personal stake in your outcome. Don’t be shy about researching online and becoming informed. Just be sure to do so thoughtfully and wisely, and then bring all questions, concerns, thoughts, and suggestions to your health care team for a discussion.

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