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Open Access Research article

Quality of health information for cervical cancer treatment on the internet

Tara J Selman*, Trina Prakash and Khalid S Khan

Author Affiliations

Academic Department, Birmingham Women's Hospital, Birmingham, UK

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BMC Women's Health 2006, 6:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-6-9

Published: 20 June 2006

Abstract

Background

The internet has become a frequently used and powerful tool for patients seeking medical information. This information may not undergo the same quality consideration as the peer-review criteria for publication of information in a journal. The aim of this study is to assess the quality of internet sites providing information on the treatment of cervical cancer, with comparisons between the quality assessments made by an educated lay person and an expert in the field.

Methods

A search of the World Wide Web was made by a lay person to identify sites containing information on the treatment of cervical cancer. The credibility and accuracy of these sites was assessed using predefined criteria based on 'Criteria for Assessing the Quality of Health Information on the Internet' and accepted guidelines for the treatment of cervical cancer. The assessment was made independently and in duplicate by the lay reviewer and medical expert in order to allow comparison.

Results

46 relevant websites were assessed. Only one site contained all the credibility and accuracy criteria, with a further website containing all the credibility criteria. The majority of sites, 38/46, were deemed easy to navigate. The agreement between lay person and expert was good with only 6 items in total changed by the expert.

Conclusion

This study clearly shows there is wide variation in quality of websites available to patients on the treatment of cervical cancer. Further research and consideration is needed on the effects of website information on gynaecological cancer patients and how steps can be made to insure the posting of good quality information.