Online information about ovarian cancer can cause as much worry as comfort for women at high risk of developing the disease, according to a new study published in ecancer.
Researchers at Cardiff University have found that, for women who haven't yet developed the disease, the most effective way to manage their risk is to surgically remove their fallopian tubes and ovaries.
However, when interviewed, women faced with this choice reported that information they found online often increased their worry and fears — suggesting that patients' independent research needs to be guided by their healthcare professionals.
“Sometimes, online information helped these women to increase their confidence when it came to talking to health professionals about ovarian cancer,” says study author Dr. Stephanie Smits of Cardiff University, Cardiff, U.K. "It was also described negatively, with the women feeling that it might be best to avoid seeking information altogether. Information about ovarian cancer was perceived by these patients to be a double-edged sword.”
Not all information on the internet is based on evidence, so people need to make sure they are looking at credible websites, added Smits. She suggests that women should always consult with their healthcare professionals and look to ovarian cancer charities for reliable websites and resources. “Doctors need to help in the search for high quality information, and management of anxiety that information might cause,” she says.
She notes that websites with monitored content, such as NHS Choices, are good places to start the independent research process.
Ovarian cancer was once described as the silent killer, but it does indeed have symptoms. Part of the confusion about ovarian cancer symptoms is that they can be caused by other common illnesses or conditions as well.
Healthline identifies early symptoms as follows:
Healthline adds that additional symptoms might include:
“These symptoms may occur for any number of reasons,” explains Healthline. “They aren’t necessarily due to ovarian cancer.” It certainly explains why some women may overlook them, while others may feel anxious. If symptoms persist, it is crucial to see a doctor immediately.
It's clear, concludes Smits, that increased awareness of symptoms and access to reliable information have a role to play in reducing anxiety and improving outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.