Medical Myths on the Internet: 12 Misleading Tactics To Watch Out For

4. Oh, and actually click on the references

This is starting to be a bit of work, isn’t it? Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a little bit of work to evaluate internet information. If the references are in a list, do the citations seem complete? Do they include legitimate journals, organizations, and educational institutions? If the sources are linked within the article, click on a few to see if the references seem legitimate. If claims are based on small studies or unique incidents, you should probably raise an eyebrow or two at their conclusions.

If you click on references and you can only ever get to other pages on the same website so that you’re stuck clicking around in circles, it may be time to roll your eyes and start a fresh search.

5. Consider your anxiety level

Does what you’re reading scare you? Cancer and its treatments are legitimately frightening, but pay attention to the tone. Is the tone informative and matter-of-fact, or does it seem frenzied? Does it align with information you’ve received from a doctor, or is it considerably darker and more anxiety-inducing? It’s the sad truth that a worried person will act irrationally and may do or buy something they wouldn’t have under normal circumstances (most of us have done it at least once). If someone stands to gain by freaking you out, they will probably not have your best interests in mind. Don’t let anyone scare you into buying their gobbledygook.

Photo: AdobeStock/Scott Griessel
Photo: AdobeStock/Scott Griessel

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6. Creating a villain

Cancer isn’t anyone’s fault. If you read information telling you there’s someone to blame and you find yourself getting angry, be wary. Anger, like fear, is an easy emotion to manipulate. Watch out for information that definitively blames someone or some thing for causing cancer—especially if that person is your doctor. You may have legitimate reasons to be upset with your doctor, but if an outside source makes claims that could undermine the vital relationship that you have with your care team, steer clear. Your care team almost certainly has your best interests at heart, and if you truly feel that they don’t, make that decision without the influence of random websites.

7. Nutrition or Supplement claims

Now we’re hitting some nerves. Of course, cancer treatment will come with legitimate nutritional advice. But steer clear of any sort of diet or supplement that claims to cure cancer. The ketogenic diet, regardless of whatever else it may do, cannot cure cancer. Certain vitamins and supplements may be helpful, but they won’t be able to cure cancer either. The tricky thing with supplement claims is that they are usually based on a nugget of truth. A study might show that a certain compound fights tumor growth, but that doesn’t mean that taking supplements of that compound will kill cancer, and overdosing on supplements can have damaging effects.

Photo: AdobeStock/kamilsezai
Photo: AdobeStock/kamilsezai

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