Cancer Council CEO urges caution as more Victorians seek cancer answers online

Monday 17 June, 2013

A Cancer Council Victoria survey shows more than 75% of Victorians are affected by cancer (either themselves or a loved one), and increasingly they seek information about these diseases online.

The Cancer Issues Population Survey (CIPS), released by the Cancer Council today, was carried out with 3,000 Victorian adults over the telephone in July and August last year.

Of those surveyed, 72% indicated they would first look online to find information about cancer, an increase of 9% since the 2010 survey.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper, urged Victorians seeking information online to use caution.

"When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it is normal to want to know everything about the type of cancer and its treatment. But it is important to remember to seek this information and support from credible organisations," he said.

"People can be overwhelmed with information and different opinions, especially in the initial stages after a cancer diagnosis. If that information is not evidence based, or put in context, it can cause unnecessary anxiety during a difficult time.

"I'd urge people seeking information to make use of the Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20) or our Email a Cancer Nurse service. We pride ourselves on producing information that is evidence-based, easy to understand and tailored to an individual's needs and diagnoses," he concluded.

The survey found that after online, the most popular sources of information about cancer were: general practitioners (GPs) at 43%, and the Cancer Council at 9%. Other health professionals mentioned by those surveyed included nurses (0.8%), oncologists (0.7%) and pharmacists (0.5%).

After people were told that Cancer Council Victoria employs trained cancer nurses to deliver support and information they were asked if they would prefer to receive such a service by telephone, email, online chat or some other way. Telephone was the preferred method for almost one in two people (47%) and email for one in four people (25%).

Mr Harper said it was pleasing to know the Cancer Council was delivering information in the two most preferred ways: online and over the telephone.

The Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20) is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. It is staffed by experienced cancer nurses who have oncology qualifications. Although they can't give individual medical advice, they can talk to people about the effects of specific types of cancer, explain what will happen during cancer treatments and connect callers with a range of support services. Such calls are confidential, and callers can remain anonymous.

Updated: 17 Jun, 2013