But a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found 32 percent of Web sites about bladder cancer contained inaccurate or outdated information. And of a list of 41 factors related to bladder cancer, 32 percent of sites covered fewer than half the issues.
Researchers searched the term "bladder cancer" on the eight most frequently used Internet search engines. They looked at the first 30 results retrieved from each search, for a combined 240 sites. After eliminating duplications, broken links, non-English sites and sites only peripherally related to bladder cancer the researchers were left with 38 unique Web sites.
"We found many of the same sites came up in different search engines. The searches also returned broken links or pages that only linked to another site, so the whole search process could be frustrating to patients seeking information," says study author Cheryl T. Lee, M.D., assistant professor of urology and director of the Bladder Cancer Program at the University of Michigan Health System. The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Urology.
The researchers developed a checklist rating system based on practice guidelines from consensus panels to assess the extent of information on each Web site. The checklist included issues such as general information, risk factors, screening, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Two urological oncologists used the checklist to evaluate each Web site.
No site included information on all 41 checklist items. Most sites contained information on signs and symptoms, tobacco and chemical exposure as risk factors, diagnostic tests and treatments. Only one sit