Together we will beat cancer


In defence of Google

21 Sep 2017 09:05

Standard advice tends to be "don't google" but in my case it has really helped. I was treated for penile cancer a year ago, which was treated conservatively with organ-sparing surgery, and now have regular checkups. It is google that has explained to me the rationale for organ-sparing surgery. And it describes in detail the two components in these checkups. 1. Checking for local recurrences on the penis itself and 2. Checking for regional occurences in lymph nodes in the groin.

What google has taught me is that the 'local recurrence' component is not that scary because local recurrences do not affect the survival rate at all, and there is a very good chance that it would be treated with further organ sparing surgery. The lymph node component is more serious, but again it is google that gave me the chances of recurrence, which are low for my T1 G2 tumour, as I had a sentinal node procedure (i.e they surgically removed the lymph nodes in the groin that were most likely to be affected and checked these very carefully, and they were clear). I was then able to check with my specialist to see if my understanding, based on Google, was correct. It is thanks to Google that my check up anxiety is now as low as it is, even though I still get stressed when the appointment time comes round.

There is a lot of misleading information out there on google, as we all know. But reputable websites are easy to identify. And any information gleaned can be cross-checked with your specialist. A downside is that the accurate information may be very bleak and patients may not wish to know this. In my case, I like to know where I stand, including my prognosis, to the maximum extent possible. But everyone is different, of course.

One thing google is very bad at, though, is interpreting symptoms! That is something that is definitely best left to the doctors.

Re: In defence of Google

21 Sep 2017 10:24 in response to Harry2

Hi there ... like you l have found so much help with understanding the cancer etc I've been diagnosed with , which helped me to make informed choices ... I think what a lot on here worry about , is putting symptoms down and on seeing results panic because they think they definitely have something .. 

its knowing how to pick a good informative site ... and not to read some scaremongering ones ... I think it's always good to take some worries and ask help lines here and McMillan and make an informed choice as to where to look on google... in reading all side effects on most tablets etc it is easy to think some people will get them all and panic ... so yes find out then seek advice and take whatever you find and get it checked by g.p /helpline to back it up ... both are really good taken to gether ...

Re: In defence of Google

21 Sep 2017 17:22 in response to Chriss
I agree. Had it not been for Google I would have struggled to get the information I needed to deal with Cancer. My hospital were not helpful at all initially, "this is what you've got, this is what you're getting" approach. I ended up changing Consultants and telling someone where to put a clinical trial to get anwers and advice rather than getting a leaflet shoved under my nose. Had I not reseached via Dr G I wouldn't have felt able to stand my ground when dealing with the hospital.

Re: In defence of Google

21 Sep 2017 18:48 in response to Harry2
Hi Harry I have been one who has said to others don't google but I suppose what I really meant was don't just google symptoms go to trusted websites. I like others have found useful information by going to the right sites but if you just google symptoms all sorts of sites pop up and can be really disturbing. I also agree with rileyroo that some doctors at some hospitals are not very good at giving patients information but then again some patients are afraid of asking and defer to the doctor as a person who has all the answers. I was at my hospital this week for my check up (everything ok) and was talking to another patient who had just started treatment she did complain that they don't tell you enough I told her that I used to write all my questions down and ask about everything no matter how silly it may sound. So I will remember in future to direct people to sites rather than tell them not to google.

Re: In defence of Google

18 Apr 2018 16:36 in response to river56

I was always told not to use google for any critical intent.  However I would recommend Google Scholar for serious peer reviewed articles.  The depth of proper knowledge can however leave you bewildered.

Re: In defence of Google

19 Apr 2018 00:53 in response to Harry2


Hi Harry,

What a great topic! I suspect that nearly all of us consult the internet as soon as we hear the mention of cancer. Like you, I need to know all that there is about my type of cancer, so that I can take charge of the progression in my cancer journey.

I have a rare form of breast cancer (Mucinous or Colloid Breast Cancer), which only 1% of people get. It is fortunately a less aggressive form of the disease, so I found that it was bunched in with commoner types and I was therefore advised to have treatment that my condition didn’t warrant.

I had to search far and wide to find information on this type of cancer and, I was fortunate enough to find a site in America. After this I discovered some American ladies who also had this and, they were extremely helpful in assisting me to make treatment choices. If we didn’t have access to the internet, I would never have received this tremendous help. Without this knowledge, I found it a scary place to be and I am so thankful that this discovery lifted me out of a dark hole.

As I have said in so many of my posts, ‘it is wise to avoid consulting Dr Google, where information given can often be poorly researched or incorrect. If you must go to the internet, please use only reputable, well-researched sites’. The problem with consulting the internet in the early days, is that our imagination takes over and leaves us with the worst case scenario, leaving reality far behind and scaring us out of our skins. It is easier when we have a diagnosis and can look for particular aspects with our heads in a better place to start with.

Kind regards,

Jolamine xx