Parents of children with cancer distrust and fear online sources of health information, study shows

Bert Gambini
EurekAlert

In the age of information, physicians still are the most trusted source when parents confront serious illness.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Parents and adult caregivers of pediatric cancer patients prefer personal consultations with trusted health care providers over online sources for information about their child’s illness, according to a University at Buffalo research study.

Despite the accessibility of online medical information, the UB study found that parents not only distrusted information found through the Internet, they often feared what types of information they might encounter.

“Respondents were telling us they were uncertain of the information online and that they were afraid of the unknown,” says study co-author Elizabeth Gage, PhD, professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions. “They didn’t want to run into stories about ‘the worst case scenario.'”

Gage, along with Christina Panagakis, a graduate student in sociology at UB, and colleagues at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, interviewed 41 parents of pediatric cancer patients in the U.S. to learn how caregivers use the Internet as an information source about their child’s illness, its prognosis and potential treatment options.

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