Objectives: To define use of the Internet for self-education by a cohort of patients with prostate cancer and to arrive at some relevant recommendations for the practicing urologist. Little has been published about patient use of the Internet in investigating their health conditions, specifically prostate cancer.
Methods: In April 1999, a self-administered, anonymous questionnaire was mailed to 490 men with the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Institutional ethics approval was obtained. Standard statistical analyses were performed.
Results: Of 490 questionnaires mailed, a total of 312 (63.7%) were available for analysis. Forty-eight percent of patients were 60 to 69 years old. Fifty-two percent of patients had never used a computer, and 25% described daily use. Only 35% of this cohort had used the Internet. Ninety-one patients had used the Internet to obtain information about prostate cancer, with 53 doing so after diagnosis but before deciding on treatment. Twenty-eight patients stated that Internet information influenced their decision about treatment. Not surprisingly, patients were more likely to use the Internet for health information if they were younger, had a higher education level, owned a personal computer, and had prior computing experience. Most patients could not recall the exact web sites they had visited but tended to recall the sites of some well-known institutions.
Conclusions: In this Canadian cohort study, we found a substantial (and most likely, rapidly increasing) number of patients used the Internet to obtain health information. This information may influence patients' decisions regarding treatment and, as urologists, we should participate in the development of web sites directed toward shared decision-making. A list of practical recommendations has been formulated.