Digital Nurse set to help Macmillan fight the online 'fake news' leaving cancer patients misinformed and frightened

Written by Samantha Lade for DonateToday

PUBLISHED: 14:51, 31st Oct 2017 | UPDATED: 09:43, 1st Nov 2017

Almost half (42%) of those diagnosed with cancer consult the internet for information

Macmillan Cancer Support has announced it's appointment of a 'Digital Nurse' amidst concern that patients are relying on unverified statistics and fake news – leaving them ‘needlessly frightened’.

The creation of the role comes in response to the increasing demand for more accurate information about cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery to be made available online.

Macmillan are also concerned patients will not only come away from the internet frightened, but worryingly, misinformed by ‘bogus cures’ – especially as new research from YouGov suggests at least 42% of those diagnosed with cancer now consult the internet for information.

According to the charity, one website reports baking soda cures breast cancer, with another suggesting that ‘chemotherapy is a bigger killer than cancer itself'.

Whilst Macmillan admits the internet is a vital tool to search for medical information, they also suggest it is imperative to gather trusted information from a reputable source, rather than dangerous or incorrect advice.

The role of Ellen McPake, the new Digital Nurse Specialist, will therefore be devoted to answering questions across Macmillan’s social media platforms and Online Community forums.

Ms McPake says: ‘As more and more people seek information about their cancer online, we want them to know that charities like Macmillan are able to offer reliable health advice. 

'In my new role, I’m there to make sure people affected by cancer have a real person they can turn to online for information about their symptoms, cancer diagnosis and treatment.’

"60,000 Brits with cancer thought they were going to die after looking up information online."

- Macmillan & YouGov | 2017

The Joint Chief Medical Officer at Macmillan, Professor Jane Maher, adds: ‘It’s completely natural for people to want to Google their diagnosis when they’re told they have cancer. But with countless unverified statistics, fake news and horror stories on the internet, ending up on the wrong website can be really worrying. 

'This can leave people pinning their hopes on a dangerous bogus cure or underestimating the benefit of routine treatments.’

Macmillian now hope that the days of dangerous or misleading Googling without adequate support will be numbered.

The charity have also set up a new webpage for GPs so that they can better signpost their patients towards the right tools and resources for cancer support.