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UK charity Macmillan Cancer hires digital nurse to counter medical misinformation

UK charity Macmillan Cancer hires digital nurse to counter medical misinformation

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UK charity Macmillan Cancer, in a move to prevent false news and information circulating among patients, has hired a digital nurse. The cancer charity states that there are a huge number of patients who rely upon information available over the internet – some of which is bogus and unauthenticated – for treatment and false beliefs of cures. This digital nurse would assist them with the correct information.

According to the charity’s joint chief medical officer Professor Jane Maher, it is natural for sufferers to ‘Google’ their symptoms and diagnosis and future course of treatment and its side effects after the diagnosis.

Studies have shown that 42 percent individuals diagnosed with cancer looked up their diagnosis over the internet. One among every eight of them did so because they did not understand clearly what the doctor explained.

A recent survey called the Cancer Patient Experience Survey also found that one fourth of the cancer patients had not received the patient information booklet that is usually distributed to patients to understand their disease better.

Another Macmillan research, conducted by YouGov, also found that 37 percent individuals in Scotland looked up their cancer diagnosis over the internet. The survey showed that 3,450 people (around 4 per cent of Scottish cancer patients) looked up information online and believed they were going to die.

However not all information is true said Maher with several sites talking about the horrors of treatment regimens and dangerous alternative medicine cure claims. She added that these could undermine the need and adherence to routine and proven treatments. The statistics used by many of these sites is often not true and is generally misleading she noted.

This new digital nurse would answer questions that people diagnosed with cancer have. She would be on the online forums and the social media platforms of the cancer charity.

Some of the alternative remedies suggested for cancer is potentially dangerous say experts. There is baking soda for breast cancer for example and a black salve that is highly caustic for skin cancers. Bleach and other harmful chemicals for the treatment of a wide range of diseases from autism to HIV and Ebola too are alarming. Salt therapy is recommended by certain websites for cancer.

After a cancer diagnosis, these misleading articles on cancer treatment can target a vulnerable population experts believe. Some sites have claimed that cancer chemotherapy kills more patients can cancer itself. This may deter legitimate cancer patients from undergoing chemotherapy leading to unnecessary deaths among patients who would have most likely responded to treatment favorably.

Janice Preston, who is the head of Macmillan in Scotland also said that it is natural for people to look up their diagnosis on the internet but the need for correct information is vital. She added that there are a lot of “unverified statistics, fake news and horror stories” that can cause more harm than earlier believed. She said that people need to sort out the correct information provider sites from the bogus ones.

Now the new digital nurse called Ellen McPake would be the answering face to all types of queries regarding cancer online said the charity. She said she would, “make sure people affected by cancer have a real person they can turn to online for information about their symptoms, cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

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