Gastrointestinal cancer web sites: How do they address patients' concerns?

Christian Weissenberger*, David Müller, Jan Beranek-Chiu, Marcus Neumann, Sinje Jonassen, Susanne Bartelt, Stefan Schulz, Gerlo Witucki, Karl Henne, Michael Geissler, Joshua Fogel

*Corresponding author for this work


Background: We studied the quality of web sites containing information on gastrointestinal cancer, focusing on the way these web sites dealt with the special concerns of these patients. Materials and methods: Searching the Internet for German-language gastroenterological cancer web sites, we collected 9,947 web pages from 14 search engines. Evaluation was done with a 36-item questionnaire. Information quality, availability of the web sites, and web site attributes considering patients' concerns and potential embarrassment were analyzed using a scoring system. Results: Belonging to 165 web sites, 1,763 of 9,947 (17.7%) web pages found by search engines provided relevant information. Five hundred forty-seven (5.5%) hits were partly relevant, and 7,637 (76.8%) were irrelevant or not available. Most web sites reported about surgery (92.1%), chemotherapy (88.5%), and radiotherapy (73.9%). Of the web sites, 46.7% (n=77), 34.6% (n=57), and 21.8% (n=36) gave information about the author(s) itself, their qualifications, and references of their information, respectively. Search engines ranked web sites giving no information on evidence-based medicine higher than other web sites, whereas web sites providing this information accurately showed higher link popularities. Patients' concerns and potential embarrassment were best addressed by gastrointestinal web sites initiated by private individuals or web sites directed to both a patient and physician audience. Conclusions: With regard to gastrointestinal cancer web sites, many search engines may be ineffective, and patient emotional needs and concerns are often disregarded. Also, physicians should guide their patients through the Internet to find high-quality information and use link-popularity-based search strategies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Colorectal Disease
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)615-624
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 10.2006


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