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Digesting the Contents: an Analysis of Online Colorectal Cancer Education Websites

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Abstract

Online educational resources have an impact on patient understanding, opinion, and behavior. More colorectal cancer patients are being diagnosed and using the internet to search for information. This study aims to provide the most in-depth and comprehensive examination of online colorectal resources to date. An internet search using the terms “colorectal cancer,” “colon cancer,” and “rectal cancer” were performed, with meta-search engines “Dogpile,” “Yippy,” and “Google.” A total of 741, 759, and 703 websites were returned by the search engines respectively. A list of the “top 100 websites” was compiled by placing the sites in average rank order. The websites were evaluated using a validated structured rating tool. Inter-rater reliability was evaluated using kappa statistics, and the results were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Website affiliations were 40% commercial and 35% from non-profit organizations. Most websites disclosed ownership (93%) and had no apparent bias (94%). Authorship disclosure was poor (17%). Most sites were interactive (84%) and organized (70% with at least 4/5 features). Readability was at a senior high school level on average. Content coverage and accuracy were the highest in the areas of etiology (96% coverage) and symptoms (95% coverage) and lowest in areas of treatment (72% coverage) and prognosis (43% coverage).

Colorectal cancer online information can be improved in accountability, readability, content accuracy, and completeness. Author disclosure, more accurate and updated citations, and a lower grade level of readability are needed. More complete and accurate information are needed, especially in the areas of treatment and prognosis.

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Correspondence to Paris-Ann Ingledew.

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Wang, L., Gusnowski, E.M. & Ingledew, PA. Digesting the Contents: an Analysis of Online Colorectal Cancer Education Websites. J Canc Educ 37, 263–273 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01864-5

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