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

Self Diagnosis: The Hows, The Whys and the Why Nots

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 to.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, self-diagnosis online 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. But self-diagnosis can be dangerous, as Dr. Weil alludes to in his quote above.

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.

So What Should We Do?

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. I was falling into the self-diagnosis trap. Thankfully, my symptoms were caused by something much less severe.

It’s important to remember that we are not experts. And with something as serious as cancer, getting treatment and catching the initial symptoms is critical. This 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.

Tips for Online Research

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

“.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. You’ll be much better off in the long run. You don’t want to risk getting delayed treatment, especially with cancer. Don’t fall into the self-diagnosis trap. Seeing a doctor can (literally) be a life saver.

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