Many of our patients would like to learn more about their cancer and do research before or after our visits. I personally like it when patients have done some reading, as it helps patients ask better questions and understand what the best choices are in terms of treatment for the cancer. However, there is a massive amount of information "out there" about cancer; how can when be sure that one is getting accurate up-to-date information?
Although there are a lot of printed books regarding cancer and its management, there is unfortunately a lot of inaccurate information in the "popular press" that can misinform patients rather than improve the understanding one's situation. Additionally, as cancer research progresses so fast, even very well written and accurate books can be out of date by the time it takes a book to be both written and published. Books that focus on the basics and the background of cancer- diagnosis, staging, and general guidelines about treatment are usually the best. I'm particularly fond of The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It's a little long, but one of the most well- written explanation of the "what, why, and how" we understand cancer written for the general population.
If you're not a book person, it was made into an excellent miniseries on PBS.
The Internet can also be somewhat treacherous when looking for information about cancer.
Unfortunately, the Internet is a little like the inside of the bathroom stall- anyone can write anything may want regardless of the quality of that information. There are innumerable websites filled with advice that it is not just unhelpful but potentially harmful. There are certainly people on the Internet running scams and "snake oil salesmen"; just as dangerous are people offering advice who are simply misinformed, but sincerely believe some of the medical myths and bad advice that occasionally occur. Many random Google searches will unfortunately turn up results that fit this "unhelpful" category or are vehicles for advertising a hospital, medical center, or clinic more than a source for objective information.
Therefore, I typically refer our patients to a number of online resources that I have found helpful. We keep a list of links on our website (http://www.stlouiscancercare.com/cancer-resources-on-the-web.html) where we have found accurate up-to-date information for our patients. I am particularly fond of the National Cancer Institute's website; it is remarkably the patient information on this website is remarkably well written and kept up to date. ASCO also has a very good informational website. Each of these resources are reviewed by multiple cancer specialists to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date. Although there are certainly other good resources, the further one get away from these not- for- profit government and medical society websites, the more the website is focused on advertising than education.
Although I do advise developing a healthy skepticism for information found from "nontraditional" sources on the Internet, I am always happy to review any information one of my patients has found if they're interested; and as always, definitely discuss your case with your personal physician with any concerns.