DiscoverHealth

Electronic light is reflected in a woman's glasses as she stares at computer screen.

To believe or not believe

There’s a lot of cancer information on the internet. Some of it is reliable. A lot isn’t.

Just ask Perry Patterson, head of the Cancer Learning Center at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“The Internet can be so good, but the internet can also be so, so not good,” Patterson said.

A lot of websites offer information about alternative treatment techniques for cancer … and some even say they can “cure” the disease.

“I’m not against alternative techniques or therapies, but are they supported by science?” Patterson said. “Sometimes that’s not what the patient wants to hear.”

First, you should always talk with your doctor before pursuing an alternative therapy, according to Patterson. But the cancer educator offered these tips for testing whether a website is reliable:

  • Check the website’s “About” section. Who runs the site? Does it have an executive board and a medical board? Are the people who sit on those boards from reputable cancer-fighting organizations? If not, readers should see red flags.
  • Look for sources. Reputable articles will link to sources that verify whether the information is accurate.
  • Are they selling a product? Then you should look at their claims critically.
  • What are the author’s credentials? MD? PhD? If the author doesn’t list credentials, then look at that information judiciously.

After talking to your doctor, Patterson recommends that patients and their families visit the Cancer Learning Center at Gibbs. There, Patterson can offer a variety of resources for people who want to learn more about a diagnosis, tips for treatments, financial information, and how to be an effective caregiver.

Have questions? Call the Cancer Learning Center at 864-560-6747 or email ppatterson@gibbscc.org.