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ASCO Quality Care 2017: Study Examines Cancer Center Websites’ Information on Breast Cancer Treatment, Outcomes

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Key Points

  • The authors measured content quality using 33 questions from three validated Breast Cancer Decision Quality Instruments (DQI). On average, major cancer center websites addressed only 21% (7 out of the 33) of the questions. Approximately 10 websites did not address any of the DQI questions, and no site addressed all of the questions.
  • Researchers found that the websites of the NCI and the Susan G. Komen Foundation covered higher proportions of questions than cancer center sites—85% and 88%, respectively.
  • Only 59% of websites were mobile-friendly, and just one-quarter offered a Spanish translation capability.

As an increasing number of patients look to the internet for cancer information, researchers from the University of Alabama found that the websites of many National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers lack sufficient information to help patients with breast cancer understand all their treatment options and make well-informed decisions. They also found they are not fully accessible to Spanish-speaking patients and those using mobile devices. In contrast, websites of the NCI and Susan G. Komen had high-quality patient information. Dulaney et al will present their findings at the upcoming ASCO Quality Care Symposium, taking place March 3 to 4, in Orlando, Florida (Abstract 135).

“In the past 5 years, we’ve seen an explosion of cancer-related information on the internet,” said lead author Caleb Dulaney, MD, a radiation oncology resident at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “As a result, patients have more choices than ever before when it comes to where they get their breast cancer information. Our study found that it is challenging to find information at cancer center websites that will truly help patients stay informed about treatments. There is good information out there, and as physicians, we can direct our patients to comprehensive resources that will help inform a patient’s care goals.”

Study Findings

Researchers evaluated breast cancer information on 65 different cancer websites: the NCI, Susan G. Komen, and 63 NCI-designated cancer centers. While they found it easy to locate the webpage that included information about breast cancer (median of two clicks to access the page), the majority of websites did not contain adequate information about treatment and care decisions.

The authors measured content quality using 33 questions from three validated Breast Cancer Decision Quality Instruments (DQI). Such instruments are designed to assess quality of information and the extent to which patients are informed about all treatment options. For example, researchers evaluated the quality of information regarding mastectomy vs radiation and lumpectomy, as well as information about side effects of chemotherapy.

On average, major cancer center websites addressed only 21% (7 out of the 33) of the questions. Approximately 10 websites did not address any of the DQI questions, and no site addressed all of the questions. On the other hand, researchers found that the websites of the NCI and the Susan G. Komen Foundation covered higher proportions of questions than cancer center sites—85% and 88%, respectively.

In addition to information quality, Dr. Dulaney and colleagues also examined information accessibility. Only 59% of websites were mobile-friendly, and just one-quarter offered a Spanish translation capability. Authors encourage cancer centers to make Spanish information available, as breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic/Latina women.

“Our findings demonstrate an opportunity for physicians to be involved with website content planning at their cancer centers so that patients with breast cancer have access to information that describes the full scope of treatment and care, along with outcomes information,” Dr. Dulaney said.

“Increasingly, patients are going online to research and find more information about their own cancer diagnoses, as well as those of family members and friends,” said Timothy D. Gilligan, MD, MS, ASCO Expert. “With websites playing a critical role for many patients, an analysis of the quality of information on major cancer-related websites is timely and important.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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