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Internet Use Can Boost Breast Cancer Patients' Faith in Docs

Often, high-quality info validates what physicians have already told them, study finds

FRIDAY, March 30, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Checking out high-quality breast cancer information online not only keeps patients informed about their disease, it may also boost their opinion about their doctor, new research shows.

Previous studies have found that many breast cancer patients go online to learn more about their disease. This is the first study to look at how patients' opinions about their doctors affect how they seek online information and support, and how the Web affects how patients regard their doctors, the study authors said.

In the study, a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research tracked the opinions of 231 recently diagnosed breast cancer patients who were given a free computer and Internet access. The women were also trained to use an online health education and support system called Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) "Living With Breast Cancer" program.

The researchers found that frequent use of the online information services was associated with both a poor doctor-patient relationship to begin with and with patients becoming more satisfied with their doctors later on.

"It makes sense that cancer patients who are less confident in their health-care providers might be more likely to turn to the Internet as a source of education and support," study author Bret Shaw, an associate scientist with the CHESS program, said in a prepared statement.

"However, this study also suggests that providing patients with access to high-quality health information about breast cancer and its related concerns may validate some of what they hear from their health-care team and improve how they feel about their doctors. In other words, referring patients to high quality information about their illness on the Internet may improve the doctor-patient relationship as well," Shaw said.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, is in the April issue of the International Journal of Medical Informatics.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison, news release, March 20, 2007
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