UK cancer charity appoints ‘fake news’ nurse to combat bogus cures online

A cancer charity has appointed its first digital nurse to combat online “fake news” about the disease.

Macmillan Cancer Support fears patients are turning to unverified websites for information that leaves them needlessly frightened and at risk from bogus cures.

The charity points to one online search that brings up a website claiming chemotherapy is a bigger killer than cancer itself, while another site reports that baking soda can cure breast cancer.

Ellen McPake will be dedicated to answering questions from people affected by cancer online, on Macmillan’s social platforms and online community.

Macmillan believes patients are turning to unverified websites for information (John Stillwell/PA

Her appointment comes as Macmillan research, carried out by YouGov, found that 37% of people in Scotland with cancer looked up information about their diagnosis online.

An estimated 3,450 people, 4% of Scottish cancer patients who looked online for information, thought they were going to die.

Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: “It’s understandable that people go online to look up their diagnosis, but it’s vital they get information from reliable sources.

The move comes after a survey found 4% of Scottish cancer patients who looked online for information thought they were going to die (Yui Mok/PA)

“As well as fantastic information and support, the web is full of unverified statistics, fake news and horror stories that can cause people unnecessary worry and distress.

“It’s important people have access to trusted information online and know how to separate websites that are accurate and reputable from those with incorrect or even dangerous information.

“We hope our new digital nurse will help people who want to find answers online. She will be there to answer questions from people across the UK about cancer and make sure they get the information they desperately need.”

The charity is concerned that some patients look online because they are leaving appointments without the information they need.


 

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