Steering Patients Toward Reliable Internet Resources

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Accurate, nonbiased online information about chemotherapy written for nonclinicians can be hard to find.
Accurate, nonbiased online information about chemotherapy written for nonclinicians can be hard to find.

What are some good Internet resources for patient information about cancer treatment regimens?

Finding accurate, nonbiased patient information about chemotherapy that is written at an appropriate reading level — and is not too technical — can be difficult. Here is a list of a few online resources I have found helpful: 

• One publication I frequently recommend is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) publication Chemotherapy and You (www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemo-and-you), which discusses some common treatment-related toxicities, as well as tips for speaking with healthcare providers about chemotherapy. 

• The NCI website also includes an A to Z list of cancer drugs, with links to the MedlinePlus.gov/druginfo website that offers detailed information specific to each medication. 

• NCI's main website, www.cancer.gov, offers many resources including information about specific cancer diagnoses and treatment modalities. Many pages on the NCI website, including Chemotherapy and Youand MedlinePlus, are available in Spanish, too. 

• The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)-sponsored website www.cancer.net has information about various cancer types, as well as treatment modalities and toxicities. The site also includes helpful pages with information for specific populations such as older adults or adolescent/young adults with cancer. It also includes options for accessing the information in Spanish. 

• The Cleveland Clinic website, www.chemocare.com, includes a directory of cancer medications with information on common and rare but serious side effects. This site also offers visitors an option for viewing the site in Spanish. 

• The American Cancer Society website www.cancer.org/treatment includes information about cancer treatment side effects, diagnoses, financial and lifestyle concerns, and a host of other helpful resources. The site is also available in Spanish. 

Although this is not a comprehensive list of all the resources available to patients online, these are the ones I use and frequently recommend. 

When evaluating other cancer information websites, I suggest patients consider the following bullet list to help them gauge how reliable the website is likely to be: 

  • Is the website attempting to sell a product, or otherwise seeking financial gain?
  • Is the website sponsored by an academic organization or a nonprofit organization (.edu or .org ending)?
  • Does the website include inflammatory language or make claims that sound too good to be true and are drastically different from what your doctor told you to expect (eg, promises cures for all advanced cancers)? 
  • Does the website include the date the content was last updated?

Most importantly, patients should be advised to discuss any questions they have about the information they read online with their oncology care team. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other members of the team can correct any inaccurate information and provide insight into the information obtained from online resources. 

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