Aim: Breast cancer is the most common cancer type among women necessitating adjuvant radiotherapy. As the Internet has become a major source of information for cancer patients, this study aimed to evaluate the quality of websites giving information on side effects of radiotherapy for breast cancer patients. Methods: A patients’ search for the English terms “breast cancer – radiotherapy – side effects” and the corresponding German terms “Brustkrebs – Strahlentherapie – Nebenwirkungen” was carried out twice (5 months apart) using the search engine Google. The first 30 search results each were evaluated using the validated 16-question DISCERN Plus instrument, the Health on the Net Code of Conduct (HONcode) certification and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmark criteria. The overall quality (DISCERN score) of the retrieved websites was further compared to queries via Bing and Yahoo search engines. Results: The DISCERN score showed a great range, with the majority of websites ranking fair to poor. Significantly superior results were found for English websites, particularly for webpages run by hospitals/universities and nongovernmental organizations (NGO), when compared to the respective German categories. In general, only a minority of websites met all JAMA benchmarks and was HONcode certified (both languages). We did not determine a relevant temporal change in website ranking among the top ten search hits, while significant variation occurred thereafter. Mean overall DISCERN score was similar between the various search engines. Conclusion: The Internet can give breast cancer patients seeking information on side effects of radiotherapy an overview. However, based on the currently low overall quality of websites and the lack of transparency for the average layperson, we emphasize the value of personal contact with the treating radio-oncologist in order to integrate and interpret the information found online.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Side effects of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients: The Internet as an information source
|Strahlentherapie und Onkologie
|Number of pages
|Published - 01.02.2018