The Pitfalls of Self Diagnosis on the Internet

As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician.
–Andrew Weil

The Internet is an incredibly great resource for accessing information and has become increasingly embedded into daily life as the “go-to” for any questions we don’t have answers for.

However, when it comes to researching potential health problems or symptoms, it can sometimes lead to worry and confusion, ending up doing more harm than good. In certain cases, it can be a catalyst for unleashing someone’s worst fears about their health. With the millions of online medical resources, including health apps and sites, it’s easy to self-diagnose and self-treat.

We’re all guilty of googling symptoms or health concerns we are having and thinking the worst after reading through bulletpointed lists of related symptoms and rare conditions. But before hitting the panic button, just remind yourself that out of all of the readily available medical content online, a significant portion can be confusing and misleading; and there are a number of health conditions that overlap and share an array of symptoms.

Although the Internet is a logical first step in trying to determine what could be wrong with your health, it should not be a substitute for a consultation with your physician. For some of us with time and financial constraints, I understand how difficult it can be to schedule a doctor’s appointment, but for the sake of your health, don’t solely rely on what the Internet tells you.

After reading an article about the “Key signs of cancer” I thought to myself, I have experienced almost every single one of the symptoms listed (fatigue, pain, weight loss, changes in bowel activity) at one time or another.

In reality, the symptoms are more likely to be caused by something far less serious than cancer. However, these could be a sign of another illness. It’s important to remember that we are not experts and with cancer, getting treatment and catching the initital symptoms is critical. These is why if you’re feeling ill and or believe you have any symptoms of cancer, I urge you to see a doctor before self diagnosis yourself.

If you are intent about searching online, keep in mind sites that are more credible sources of information. For example, look for sites that end with the following suffixes, as they would be considered more trusthworthy:

“.gov” which means the site is sponsored by the federal government

“.edu” which means the site is run by medical schools or universities

“.org” which means they’re maintained by not-for-profit organizations

Also scientific journals or medical journals can provide credible studies and information.

The bottom line is, if you’re not feeling well for the sake of your health and sanity, get offline and go see a doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms you are concerned about. You’ll be much better off in the long run. You don’t want to risk getting delayed treatment, especially with cancer.