Objective: To evaluate the most frequently searched thyroid cancer websites for completeness, accuracy, and consumer friendliness.
Design: The 50 most popular thyroid cancer websites were evaluated using a novel instrument developed by a Delphi panel of endocrine experts and based on practice guidelines. Each website received independent scores for disease-specific information and a final quality score. Quality was related to website demographics using the Student t test, chi-square, and ANOVA analyses.
Main outcomes: Interrater reliability was excellent (kappa = 0.81). Most websites were not specific to thyroid cancer alone (72%), contained advertisements (72%), lacked references (66%), and were privately sponsored (50%). Only 38% had been updated within 2 years. "Government" and "Non-Profit" websites were the most consumer friendly. Mean quality score of medical content was 38%, with websites receiving the highest score in "Anatomy/Physiology" (55%) and lowest in "Surgery" (29%). Low quality score was attributed to information deficiency rather than inaccuracy. On univariate analysis, no significant associations were found between quality score and country of origin, currency, sponsorship, authorship, administration, advertisements, or references.
Conclusions: Thyroid cancer websites are out of date and incomplete, lacking important information sought by patients, particularly surgical information. An accurate, comprehensive, easily available, and patient-oriented thyroid cancer Internet resource is needed for patients.