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Websites, Websites Everywhere: How Thyroid Cancer Patients Use the Internet

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Thyroid cancer incidence rates and Internet use are both increasing. Thyroid cancer is common in young patients, who are likely to use the Internet. This study aims to characterize thyroid cancer patient Internet use and search patterns, usability of online resources, and effects on clinical care. From May to December 2017, inclusive, patients with thyroid cancer attending two tertiary cancer centers were invited to complete a survey about Internet use. Thirty-nine of 72 questionnaires were returned (54%). Ninety-seven percent of participants used the Internet, and 87% had looked for thyroid cancer information. The majority (94%) searched on Google. Patients most often looked for information about treatment (94%) and symptom management (76%). Many patients evaluated content quality by comparing several resources (71%), discussing with a physician (56%) or using a credible academic or government site (53%). Online information was somewhat hard to understand for 32%, but 91% found it useful. Over half (60%) of treatment decisions were affected by web resources, and information helped 50% of patients make decisions with their physicians. Respondents highlighted a lack of resources on survivorship and uncommon tumors such as medullary or anaplastic cancer. Physicians should recognize that patients overwhelmingly access online information, which often impacts patients’ decision-making. Clinicians can guide thyroid cancer patients through abundant web-based information and assist in interpreting this information. Educators can use this information to guide resource development, tailoring content and design to thyroid cancer patients’ needs.

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Correspondence to Paris-Ann Ingledew.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Chang, K., Berthelet, E., Grubbs, E. et al. Websites, Websites Everywhere: How Thyroid Cancer Patients Use the Internet. J Canc Educ 35, 1177–1183 (2020).

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