A friend or loved one’s cancer diagnosis can spark a flurry of web searches for more information about the disease and the latest treatment options. And while the internet can be a useful research tool, the web can also be home to bogus claims about cancer treatments, scams and unproven products. That’s why it’s vital to arm yourself with knowledge when looking for medical information online.
When it comes to researching cancer facts, treatments and organizations, consider these tips:
- Rely on your health care team for the best advice—not the internet. Your health care providers are always your best source of information for determining whether a specific product or treatment is right for you. If you find a product or treatment online that interests you, ask your doctor about it and discuss whether it might fit with your diagnosis and overall health.
- Cast a broad net in your research, but rely on reputable sources. When you do research online, consider starting with Dana-Farber’s list of recommended web resources for cancer information and related services. This list has been compiled and vetted by health care professionals from Dana-Farber’s Blum Patient and Family Resource Center, which you can also visit in person to conduct research, gather background materials, and talk with a staff member or volunteer about how to best learn more.
- Talk with an expert before you start taking anything—such as vitamins or natural supplements with purported health benefits. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can tell you about the benefits and risks of a given supplement, explain how it might affect your treatment, and discuss how it might interact with medications you take.
Be very skeptical of products or treatments that make big claims—like offering a cancer cure. Unless a medication or product has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there’s often no telling what evidence or data is being used to back up claims of its potential benefits.
If you are interested in potentially trying new treatments and strategies that haven’t yet been approved by the FDA, consider taking part in a clinical trial. You can search for national trials that you might eligible for through the National Cancer Institute website. Or use Dana-Farber’s clinical trial search tool to find the latest adult and pediatric cancers and blood disorders offered through the Institute and its clinical partners.
This article originally appeared on Dana-Farber’s Insight blog. It is reprinted with permission.