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The Quality and Readability of Online Consumer Information About Gynecologic Cancer
  1. Aleksandra Sobota, MSc and
  2. Gozde Ozakinci, PhD
  1. School of Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Aleksandra Sobota, MSc, University of St Andrews School of Medicine, Biological and Medical Sciences Building, N Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TF Scotland, United Kingdom. E-mail: as297@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Abstract

Objective The Internet has become an important source of health-related information for consumers, among whom younger women constitute a notable group. The aims of this study were (1) to evaluate the quality and readability of online information about gynecologic cancer using validated instruments and (2) to relate the quality of information to its readability.

Methods Using the Alexa Rank, we obtained a list of 35 Web pages providing information about 7 gynecologic malignancies. These were assessed using the Health on the Net (HON) seal of approval, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmarks, and the DISCERN instrument. Flesch readability score was calculated for sections related to symptoms and signs and treatment.

Results Less than 30% of the Web pages displayed the HON seal or achieved all JAMA benchmarks. The majority of the treatment sections were of moderate to high quality according to the DISCERN. There was no significant relationship between the presence of the HON seal and readability. Web pages achieving all JAMA benchmarks were significantly more difficult to read and understand than Web pages that missed any of the JAMA benchmarks. Treatment-related content of moderate to high quality as assessed by the DISCERN had a significantly better readability score than the low-quality content.

Conclusions The online information about gynecologic cancer provided by the most frequently visited Web pages is of variable quality and in general difficult to read and understand. The relationship between the quality and readability remains unclear. Health care providers should direct their patients to reliable material online because patients consider the Internet as an important source of information.

  • Decision making
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • Online information
  • Quality of information
  • Readability
  • Treatment information
  • World Wide Web

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Footnotes

  • Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (www.ijgc.net).

  • A.S.’s PhD is funded by the Danuta Richardson Medical Scholarship. This project has not received any additional funding.

  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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