The web is a valuable source of  information. You may be reading this blog for that very reason! It can also be a scary place for a concerned patient or caregiver to navigate, where misinformation can spread like wildfire and people with negative intentions have access to larger-than-ever audiences. The world wide web is, more or less, the Wild West of the computerized world.

There is no shortage of websites claiming to provide important health news, so how do you protect yourself from fraud, misinformation and marketing ploys disguised as medical advice?Many of these tips are the fruit of the CCAC’s observations when navigating the wild web and using sites like Twitter and Facebook.

  1. Be wary of websites that are advertising or selling a product. It’s not always obvious, and many companies have found sophisticated, slick-looking ways of merging what looks like sound medical advice with pure product shilling. Unfortunately for users like us, Twitter feeds can be full of misinformation and product pushing. Every day, we sift through hundreds of tweets that fraudulently claim that you can buy “colon cleanses” that will magically cure colon cancer. Which leads us to our next point:
  2. If it seems to good to be true, it is. Everyone has heard this phrase before, but it bears repeating. Companies selling products know how to tap into the desperation of a cancer patient or their loved one and how to appeal to that sense of hope. We want to believe that this herbal pill or this “all-natural” tea could 100% prevent colorectal cancer. While there are many lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk, anything claiming to abolish it completely are false. Obviously:
  3. Never buy drugs or medical supplies online. There is no safety net to ensure that you are accessing the genuine drugs or that they aren’t expired. Likewise, a website cannot tell what dose or strength of a medication you need. Stay away.
  4. Compare the information you find with other known credible sources. Check to see if the information is similar to what’s being presented by sources you already trust. Try literature received from your doctor or one of the many credible online medical journals. Use the CCAC’s glossary of terms to help with the language, if necessary. While different studies can absolutely come up with different findings and while data can be interpreted in a number of ways by different institutions, similar information should be accessible outside of the page you’re surfing. On that note:
  5. Check the references of the article. Most reputable sites will list their sources, such as the medical journal the study was published in, when providing health information. The author’s credentials may also be provided. Anyone can host a website and there is no governing body controlling content, so look for items from trusted organizations reviewed by board-certified doctors. Click here to view the CCAC’s Medical Advisory Board list, for example.
  6. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all in the world of colorectal cancer treatment. Well-meaning survivors may have the very best of intentions when posting about their successful treatment combinations in chat rooms, forums or Facebook groups, but keep in mind that there are dozens of factors that a highly trained oncologist will consider when establishing your treatment plan, so:
  7. When in doubt, ask your doctor. The CCAC endorses talking to your doctor about all aspects of your colorectal cancer prevention and treatment, even when something comes from a credible source. While we are happy to post general nutrition guidelines, for example, certain ones may not be right for you and your body. Keep a pad by the computer and jot down questions you come across in your search for information on the condition and discuss them with a healthcare professional.

As always, staying up to date with the CCAC’s site will keep you provided with reliable information. Join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter for realtime updates you can count on, and more tips to help colorectal patients get the most out of the internet.