“Dr. Google” Will See You Now—Assessing the Quality of Information on Oesophageal Cancer on the Internet

  • Eoghan BurkeEmail author
  • Patricia Harkins
  • Munir Saeed
  • Mohamed Salama
  • Ibrahim Ahmed
Original Article



Increasingly, patients are consulting the internet for medical information, where the quality is highly variable. We must ensure patients are directed towards high-quality websites. This is particularly true of oesophageal cancer which is often detected at an advanced stage and is frequently fatal. We aim to assess the quality of information on oesophageal cancer available for patients on the Internet.

Methods and Materials

We searched the top 3 search engines for “Esophageal Cancer”. We analysed the top 20 websites returned by Google and the top 10 websites returned by Yahoo and Bing. All free, English language websites which did not require a password were included. We excluded paid advertisement websites and websites for medical professionals. Duplicate websites were removed. Each website was then evaluated using the JAMA benchmarks, DISCERN tool, presence or absence of the Health On The Internet (HON) seal and the Esophageal Cancer Specific Content Score (ECSCS).


The average JAMA score was 2 with only three of the eighteen unique websites scoring the maximum of 4 points (17%). The average DISCERN score was 51.5 (64%) with no website achieving the maximum of 80. The HON seal was present in only 5 websites (28%). The average ECSCS was 9.2 with only two websites achieving the maximum of 12 (11%).


Whilst there are certainly websites providing high-quality information for patients in relation to oesophageal cancer, our study has identified obvious issues. We must ensure that only the highest-quality information is available on the Internet for patients.


Oesophageal cancer JAMA benchmark DISCERN tool Quality of information 



  1. 1.
    Kunst H, Groot D, Latthe PM, et al. Accuracy of information on apparently credible websites: Survey of five common health topics. BMJ 2002;324:581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Eysenbach G, Kohler C. What is the prevalence of health-related searches on the World Wide Web? Qualitative and quantitative analysis of search engine queries on the internet. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2003:225e9.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fox S. Highlights of the Pew Internet Project's research related to health and health care. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Available from: Accessed July 6, 2013.
  4. 4.
    Rainie L, Fox S. The quality of information: Verify before trusting. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Available from: Accessed July 6, 2013.
  5. 5.
    Silberg W; Lundberg G, Robert A., Musacchio, D. Assessing, Controlling, and Assuring the Quality of Medical Information on the Internet: Caveant Lector et Viewor—Let the Reader and Viewer Beware JAMA. 1997;277(15):1244-1245. doi: CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Pohl H, Sirovich B, Welch HG Esophageal adenocarcinoma incidence: are we reaching the peak? Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010;19(6):1468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lu CL, Lang HC, Luo JC, Liu CC, Lin HC, Chang FY, Lee SD Increasing trend of the incidence of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, but not adenocarcinoma, in Taiwan. Cancer Causes Control. 2010;21(2):269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Joonas H Kauppila, Fredrik Mattsson, Nele Brusselaers, Jesper Lagerg Prognosis of oesophageal adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma following surgery and no surgery in a nationwide Swedish cohort study BMJ Open 2018;8:e021495. doi: CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    M. Nassiri et al. The Journal of Arthroplasty 29 (2014) 1339–1344.e1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Norman CD, Skinner HA. eHealth Literacy: Essential Skills for Consumer Health in a Networked World. J Med Internet Res 2006 16;8(2):e9CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublinIreland
  2. 2.St James HospitalDublinIreland
  3. 3.Our Lady Of Lourdes HospitalDroghedaIreland

Personalised recommendations