While accessing health information online is still a possibility for very few patients in Germany worldwide information services are providing an increasing variety of information concerning practically every aspect of prevention, health promotion and treatments. For cancer, one of the most common diseases, a well established information and communication infrastructure has developed over the past years. At this point the importance of the internet for health communication and health promotion can only be estimated. However it appears that the internet is a large information resource as well as a potential support network for patients and their families. Patients mainly log on to major services such as Oncolink (about 150.000 users per month) or CancerNet for receiving background information about their particular diseases or general introductions about the nature of cancer.

How much or little the possibility of having access to more information about their diseases really effects the quality of life of patients is still an open question. However a randomized controlled trial showed that patients appreciated receiving more written information on cancer although this did not increase their cancer knowledge. Besides following their wishes or needs to inform themselves via the www, patients even more often use email and newsgroup bulletin boards for communication. Questions concerning the treatment of cancer and its effects on the family are reported as the most helpful topics. The process of coping with cancer seems to be probably very well supported by such new nontraditional electronic support networks as long as they fulfill the functions of a community.

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Patient information about cancer on the internet:For better, worse or nothing?

Anke Scheiber  

While accessing health information online is still a possibility for very few patients in Germany worldwide information services are providing an increasing variety of information concerning practically every aspect of prevention, health promotion and treatments. For cancer, one of the most common diseases, a well established information and communication infrastructure has developed over the past years. At this point the importance of the internet for health communication and health promotion can only be estimated. However it appears that the internet is a large information resource as well as a potential support network for patients and their families. Patients mainly log on to major services such as Oncolink (about 150.000 users per month) or CancerNet for receiving background information about their particular diseases or general introductions about the nature of cancer.

How much or little the possibility of having access to more information about their diseases really effects the quality of life of patients is still an open question. However a randomized controlled trial showed that patients appreciated receiving more written information on cancer although this did not increase their cancer knowledge. Besides following their wishes or needs to inform themselves via the www, patients even more often use email and newsgroup bulletin boards for communication. Questions concerning the treatment of cancer and its effects on the family are reported as the most helpful topics. The process of coping with cancer seems to be probably very well supported by such new nontraditional electronic support networks as long as they fulfill the functions of a community.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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