Web info on pancreatic cancer complicated, often inaccurate

Online information about pancreatic cancer is written at a level too difficult for the general population to understand and lacks accurate details about alternative therapies, according to research published at JAMA Surgery.

The study echoes findings from a previous analysis of online content from 16 medical specialties.

"Dealing with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult enough without asking patients to negotiate Ph.D.-level terms. The concern here is that available Web information may, in fact, be adding to existing barriers to care," senior author Tara Kent, M.D., a pancreatic surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, says in an announcement.

Kent and colleagues compared the accuracy and reading level for 50 patient-oriented websites by treatment method and category, such as privately owned, media, academic or government in origin. They looked at five pancreatic cancer treatment methods: alternative therapy, chemotherapy, clinical trials, radiation therapy and surgery.

The researchers found median readability level required at least 13 years of education, while only 58 percent of the adult U.S. population has attained that level of learning, according to the announcement. Overall, the researchers found websites with higher accuracy required a higher reading level than those with lower accuracy.

Nonprofit, academic and government websites were the most accurate, while alternative therapy websites were the least accurate, the study found. Websites of nonprofit organizations also were easier to read than media and academic websites.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the announcement