Cancer Charity Appoints 'Fake News' Nurse To Weed Out Online Lies

30 October 2017, 05:29


A cancer charity has appointed its first ever Digital Nurse to combat ''fake news''online.

Macmillan Cancer Support says it fears cancer patients are turning to unverified websites for information that leaves them needlessly frightened and at risk of bogus cures.

For example, one online search brings up a website that claims chemotherapy is a bigger killer than cancer itself, while another site reports that baking soda can cure breast cancer.

The Digital Nurse Specialist, based in Glasgow, will be solely dedicated to answering questions from people affected by cancer online, on Macmillan's social media platforms and the charity's Online Community.

The appointment comes as Macmillan research, conducted by YouGov, found that more than a third (37%) of people in Scotland with cancer looked up information about their diagnosis online.

Of those, one in ten (10%) people said they went online because they didn't fully understand what they'd been told about their cancer.

An estimated 3450 people (4% of cancer patients in Scotland who looked online for information after diagnosis) in Scotland with cancer thought they were going to die after looking up information about their disease online.

Macmillan's head in Scotland, Janice Preston said: ''It's uderstandable that people go online to look up their diagnosis, but it's vital they get information from reliable sources.

''As well as fantastic information and support, the web is full of unverified statistics, fake news and horror stories that can cause people un necessary worry and distress.

''It's important people have access to trusted information online and know how to separate websites that are accurate and reputable from those with incorrect or even dangerous information.

''We hope our new digital nurse help people who want to find answers online. She will be there to answer questions from people across the UK a bout cancer and make sure they get the information they desperately need.''

Macmillan is concerned that some patients looking online because they are leaving appointments without the information they need.

Last June, the first ever Cancer Patient Experience Survey in Scotland revealed that a quarter of patients (25%) did not fully understand the explanation of what was wrong with them.

Previous Macmillan research also reveals that one in three people (34%) in the UK say they were in a daze and couldn=E2=80=99t take anything in when they were diagnosed.

The charity want health professionals to make sure patients fully understand their illness and direct them to reputable sources of information online.

Headteacher Kay Robertson, 51, used the internet extensively to find information about her illness, after being diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in March 2014 and when it returned in May 2016.

The mum-of-two said: ''I googled everything, all the way through my cancer. I was lucky that I had a fantastic consultant and a Macmillan nurse who explained things really well, but there was always something I needed
to look up.

''Everyone is just so used to getting information instantly now that going online is inevitable.

''There is so much false information out there. I was careful to only look at websites I knew I could trust like Macmillan or the NHS.

''At my school we teach children that anyone can put up anything online so I was really careful not to go on any sites that didn't look right.''

In September, Kay found that even accurate information can cause worry when she was diagnosed with sepsis.

The Crieff woman, who is now fully recovered, said: ''I was feeling really ill and worried the symptoms were the cancer coming back.

When I was told it was sepsis I didn't really know anything about it.

''I was in hospital and asked my husband to google it. The first thing he found was that it was a life-threatening condition. He didn't tell me that at the time though. It's too easy to go online and find the worst case scenario.''

Macmillan's new Digital Nurse Specialist, Ellen McPake, said: ''More and more people seek information about their cancer online, we want them to know that charities like Macmillan are able to offer reliable health advice.

''In my new role, I'm there to make sure people affected by cancer have a real person they can turn to online for information about their symptoms, cancer diagnosis and treatment.''