Information from the Internet: attitudes of Australian oncology patients


  • Funding: None

    Potential conflicts of interest: None


Background: Patients require accurate information about their illness to make informed decisions. Many sources of information exist, although reliability is variable. Our objective was to investigate information seeking behaviour and attitudes toward health-related information from the Internet in a sample of Australian oncology patients.

Method: During their outpatient attendance, 109 patients completed a self-administered paper–pen format questionnaire. They were required to have a recent cancer diagnosis (<6 months ago) adequate English and no cognitive impairment.

Results: Seventy-four per cent of questionnaires were returned. The majority of patients (78%) wanted as much information about their cancer diagnosis as possible and 90% reported receiving adequate information from their treating team. Despite this, more than half actively searched for additional information, with 77% using the Internet. Patients were trusting of information obtained from the Internet. More than half of information searchers discussed information obtained in their search with a health professional. The majority of patients did not believe that information searching adversely affected the doctor–patient relationship.

Conclusion: Information searching is common in ambulatory Australian oncology patients, with the Internet being a frequently used resource. To ensure patients find reliable and relevant information and to minimize the risk of harm, health professionals involved in treating oncology patients should provide guidance in finding information sources and assistance in interpreting the information obtained.