VOL: 99, ISSUE: 14, PAGE NO: 26
Maria Leadbetter, BA, Cert(oncology), RGN, is breast cancer information nurse specialist, Breast Cancer Care, Sheffield
Over the past few years the internet has become part of everyday life and people of all ages now use it as a fast and easy way of obtaining information. It would seem logical when someone is affected by breast cancer that the internet may be used for information. However, the quality of information can vary from excellent to appalling and an internet search on the subject of breast cancer might result in nearly two million websites to view. This could be daunting for many people, and nurses are in an ideal position to guide people to websites that can give them accurate and up-to-date information.
The internet is a valuable resource for educating both patients and professionals. For people with breast cancer it can supplement the information their breast care team has given them. Its main advantage is that it gives people the opportunity to obtain information and to learn more about their situation at their own pace. It is available 24 hours a day and for people with breast cancer who are leading busy lives, this can be an important source of information and support.
A total of 39,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK (Cancer Research UK, 2002). Men can also develop breast cancer, although it is far less common than in women. In the UK there are approximately 270 men diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Several of the main UK cancer organisations, such as Breast Cancer Care and CancerBACUP, offer an ‘Ask the nurse’ service. This is a confidential, free service whereby a question can be sent to a team of nurses who will research and answer the question. The person asking the question will usually receive an answer in a few days.
Information available on the internet can come from anywhere in the world and it is important to check which country the website comes from. There are many US sites, which can be interesting to use but not everything in the USA is relevant to people in this country.
Modern health care includes the provision of information that is accurate, relevant and cost-effective. One of the objectives of the NHS Information Strategy (1998) is that patients have access to accredited, multimedia background information and advice about their conditions. This was an objective following the Calman-Hine report (DoH, 1995) which advocated that ‘patients, families and carers should be given clear information and assistance in a form they can understand about treatment options and outcomes available to them at all stages of treatment from diagnosis onwards’ (section 3/paragraph 3).
When women affected by breast cancer log on to websites there are tools to distinguish the good sites from the bad. The triangle mark displayed on any information indicates that it meets the needs of the Centre for Health Quality Information, which assesses the quality of the information to ensure it is accurate, clear and relevant