We live in a society of information and connectivity, where all kinds of information can be accessed with just one click. We spend much of the day glued to our mobile phones and laptops, able to access this information from all parts of the world almost immediately. This has been a major advance for society that has made so many people’s lives easier, and has created a new need to be more informed. This easy access is not without risks though. The information we find can be false or misleading, since anybody can post information without being an official source.
The freedom the internet gives us to publish and claim information without it being verified can be dangerous, especially when it comes to health information. In these cases, in order to prevent disinformation, it is necessary to know what sources of information on cancer are reliable and how we can identify fake news.
The medical professional, our trusted source of information
For health-related topics, the most effective way to obtain quality information is to always ask your healthcare professional. Our doctor has all the information related to the disease, symptoms, related diseases, as well as experience with different patients, who may have had the same questions we have now. In addition to their extensive studies, as part of their profession, it is their responsibility to stay up-to-date on information. Their continuous training includes refreshers on disease management, new treatments, interpreting the results of scientific research in their field and being aware of the new information published in both medical publications and in non-specialized sources.
Where can we get verified information on cancer?
There are some official websites where medical professionals have open-access to information on the disease, which means they can also be considered official sources for patients and their families. Examples include:
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
- World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF)
- Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM)
On the other hand, there are other reference websites that explain the information using language adapted to people who are not medical professionals. For cancer, the official pages we can check include:
- Spanish Cancer Association (AECC)
- United States National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- American Cancer Society (ACS)
Learn to spot fake news on social media
When browsing the internet or finding information on social networks, both on health and other issues, we should always think about whether it could be fake or not. It is quite common that these media circulate information without scientific evidence that, in a matter of seconds, can be shared and disseminated among all of that person’s contacts, reaching a large number of people in under 24 hours.
To check the accuracy of health information quickly, we need to consider certain details, such as:
- Who signs the information and if it is an official source.
- Check if HCPs and specialists have made statements about the matter.
- Check other websites to see if anything has been published on it, or search the websites of official institutions.
- Determine if it is an opinion or if it is true information, taken from scientific consensus.
It is also important to think about and evaluate whether the type of website or the profile of the spokesperson would indicate that he or she is an expert qualified to publish information on the matter. Look up their profession and position, and their professional and personal experience.
Most web developers know SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques to make their sites appear in the top positions of Google searches, so more users access their content. This does not mean that the information is truthful or that it is the primary source. Don’t believe the first option you see. Research the information on other websites.
If you receive information and are not sure if it is scientifically backed, it is best to do a Google search on the topic and see what other websites have posted about it. Along with the information you want to search for, you can put the words ‘fake’ or ‘hoax’ and see if any of the platforms that uncover this type of content have published anything in that regard. Some of these platforms include LaBuloteca, MalditoBulo, MalditaCiencia, the website of the OSI (Spanish Internet Security Office) or the social media accounts of different law enforcement agencies, which have specialized staff for this purpose.
Source: Mejor sin Cáncer