We all use the Internet to learn about our prostate cancer, your reading this post confirms this statement. The Internet can be a useful tool for finding information and connecting with other patients and caregivers. However, it can also be a nightmare of unreliable misinformation.

Understanding what is credible, accurate and reliable information about prostate cancer, its risks, its treatment, and its recovery can be a daunting task. You must always remember that Internet content is not regulated. Because it is on the Internet does not mean that it is true! Just think of that commercial for State Farm Insurance (State of Disbelief at: that has been running on TV where a pretty young woman cites one untruth after another because she learned it on the Internet and you will understand the problem. When learning anything from the internet you need to use good and reasonable judgment.

So how do you sort out what information is good content from the bad and half truths that permeate the Internet? I suggest that you think of the following issues when viewing cancer information websites:

Who Owns and operates the website? Legitimate sourses that operate good websites should be identified throughout the page. They should be willing to be identified along with the information they offer. By knowing the source and the purpose of the information we can learn whether the site is designed to educate about a disease or sell a product. The easiest way to find out about the site owner is by going to the “About Us” section of the page.

Who is responsible for the website’s content? Knowing who edits and approves the content (such as an editorial board) and how to contact the organization that operates the website will tell you the voracity of the site and the information it conveys. Look at the list of the Board of Directors, Medical Advisors and Staff. Look for the seal of approval from the Health On the Net (HON) Foundation, an organization that established a code of conduct for health and medical websites.

It is always important to be cautious when reading information posted on discussion groups or bulletin boards because this part of the website may not be regularly reviewed or updated. This is not to say that good and valid information is not regularly conveyed on theses sites, but you need to look at who is the author of the information. People tend to become advocates for something that worked for them, this does not mean that it will work for you.

Who funds the website? Websites can be biased based on the financial backing. Not only can information not be correct, it can also be slanted because of financial interests. Learn how to differentiale the difference between advertisements and medical information. Avoid websites that try to promote a specific medication or treatment over another.

How does the website maintain your privacy? In our age we must always be aware of protecting our privacy. If the website requires you to give confidential information— such as your name, address, e-mail address, or diagnosis— there should be a separate security or privacy policy statement that tells you how this information will be used. Understanding what the site owners are planning to do with your personal information. Read these statements carefully and make sure you are comfortable with their policies.

Where do they get their information? Try and understand where the web site gets its information. Reliable cancer information should always be based on scientific evidence and not personal feelings or experiences. Look for links to research that verifies the site’s conclusions and recommendations.

How current is the information on the website? It is amazing how quickly prostate cancer information changes. Researchers are constantly learning more about the cancer and developing new treatments. Usually, information that is only a few years old may no longer be accurate. Look for a date at the beginning or end of an article, which will tell you when the article was last posted or reviewed.

Does the website have a linking policy? If you click on a link make sure that the new web site you have entered has consistent standards with the site you first started.

What does your doctor say? A great mediator of information you learn on the web is your doctor. Your doctor can help you evaluate the information and understand it. However, remember that you will need to ration the time you use with the doctor as they are often rushing in and rushing out of the room. If the dictor feels abused you will might not get the care you deserve.

Three things to Remember:
1- Ask your doctor for web sites that are reliable.
2- Don’t forget to Bookmark the good sites so that you can return to them in the future.
3- Trust your gut, if it seems to good, it is. Use your common sense.

Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.