Woman on app
New online search tool called Cancer Answers" is a way to find trusted, curated cancer information. (Image: UHN)

With the wealth of information available online, it's become second-nature to simply type key words into Google or any other search engine and get an answer right away. But when you're looking for information about your health, getting accurate information is not so easy.

Darlene Hearn remembers that when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, her first instinct was to Google her cancer and her symptoms.

"Even before I saw an oncologist, I had already Googled my symptoms and had an idea of what I might be dealing with," Darlene says.

"You can find anything on Google. And I guess that's part of the problem – you don't always know if you're getting a reliable source of information."

Darlene remembers finding a lot of information from people who seemed like they were trying to sell cures, or had one-off experiences that no one else was talking about.

She also noted that at the time of her search, it was a challenge to find information that was current.

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Many of the resources that kept coming up in her online searches were five to 10 years old, which she says made her think that she was searching in the wrong places.

Related to this story
  • A video on how to vet the quality of health information on the internet [Editor's Note: Link is no longer available]

It begs the question: how can you find credible, current cancer information and resources backed by science?

The Cancer Education team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is helping to move us closer to the answer. They've developed "Cancer Answers," a search tool to help people find trusted information about cancer.

Having access to online information can be a big help when you have lots of cancer-related questions, especially since it can be difficult to remember everything you want to ask in the moment with a healthcare team.

Being able to look up information on your own time can help you get the most out of meetings with your healthcare team and can make you feel more ready for your cancer journey.

The "Cancer Answers" tool aims to help people narrow their search, and gain a wealth of tailored, credible information. It provides cancer information directly from reputable sources and connects people with a variety of trusted resources.

Information can be accessed by simply typing key words into the search bar, as you would with Google.

But what really makes this tool shine is that it can be searched using cancer-specific topic filters. Search for information by type of cancer, where patients are in your cancer journey, or by specific test names.

The tool will lead patients to reliable government-backed sites such as the Canadian Cancer Society, or view educational materials such as brochures and videos, created by well-known sources, including the Princess Margaret.

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