Cancer patients who turn to the internet for answers about their diagnosis are often left feeling anxious, depressed and confused, a charity has warned.
A survey of 2,004 adults by Macmillan Cancer Support found 39% of cancer patients said they had looked online for information about their diagnosis, of which 27% reported it having a detrimental impact.
This figure increased to 39% of those who turned to the internet within moments of their diagnosis.
When the results are scaled up to reflect the UK cancer population, it suggests more than 300,000 people could have experienced similar feelings, the charity said.
Dr Rosie Loftus, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said it is vital people with cancer are supported from day one.
39% of cancer patient have looked online
for information about their diagnosis
27% say looking online had a detrimental impact
Overall, 11% have been negatively affected
by looking online
Source: MacMillan Cancer Research
“This not only depends on the cancer workforce having the time and capacity to fully explain what a diagnosis means, but also signposting people to reputable sources to ensure they start their cancer experience on the right foot,” she added.
Among those surveyed, the top reasons for looking up their condition online were to look for more information and to find out about their prognosis.
However, 5% said they had found bogus cancer cures online and the same number said they thought they were going to die after searching the web.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer, told the Independent it is vital that internet and social media platforms help people find reliable sources of information.
“As part of our long-term plan we are rolling out a faster diagnosis standard so that people get certainty sooner, and investing in more clinical nurse specialists and other professionals to ensure people get more personalised cancer care, including information they can trust,” he added.