Can you remember a time when you didn't have the internet at your fingertips? It really wasn't that long ago. It's only been a couple decades since home internet access started becoming commonplace.
Now, we have tons of websites to choose from that are full of useful ideas. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of sites that feed you nothing but misinformation.
And when you're searching for medical advice, that can be deadly. You really need to know where information about critical topics like cancer is coming from. The good news is, there are trusted resources out there.
How can you tell what's real and what's fake?
How many times have you started to feel ill and decided do some research online? The internet is the first place many people go to look up symptoms and see what they might be coming down with. That can lead to a misdiagnosis, and you could come across bad information.
People facing cancer often use information found on the internet to make decisions about their illness and treatment. The problem is, some of the information they find is not reliable, and it can be hard to tell at first glance what's real and what's fake.
The American Cancer Society warns, "Anyone can post any kind of information online and some people may be passing along information that is limited, inaccurate, or just plain wrong. Some even try to deceive you. A lot of what passes for cancer information on the internet is made up of opinion, salesmanship, and testimonials, and is not grounded in careful science.
"It may take some extra time and effort, but you need to find accurate information. The wrong information can hurt you when it comes to cancer."
So what's behind all the false medical information online? Many times, it's someone trying to make a buck, promising treatments and cures that are not proven.
When it comes to drugs and other medical products for treating cancer, they have to have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or clearance before they can legally be advertised or sold. But there are still products online that are being sold, even without FDA approval. Some of them may even contain dangerous ingredients that could harm people.
How to spot a fake
The FDA says to watch for the following phrases, often used by fake cancer products. They are red flags that should warn consumers not to buy them:
- Treats all forms of cancer
- Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors
- Shrinks malignant tumors
- Selectively kills cancer cells
- More effective than chemotherapy
- Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
- Cures cancer
The best way to protect yourself is to discuss any health product with your provider before you take it. And if you have cancer symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor ASAP. The earlier cancer is detected the better chance for survival.
Resources you can trust
Two of the best resources for cancer information are the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. They both have websites that are packed full of helpful information. You can learn about different types of cancer, research, treatment and support and much more.
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