Why you should never rely on Dr Google

Googling symptoms can cause anxiety. Picture: iStock
Googling symptoms can cause anxiety. Picture: iStock

ALMOST half of all attempts to self-diagnose an illness using Google could leave people fearing they have cancer, a study has revealed.

Researchers from medical firm Bupa found some 47 per cent of searches for an illness - such as headaches - returned at least one result for cancer on the first page.

The research also found half of the search results for constipation and one in three for sore throat suggested cancer, with doctors warning online information can be ­unreliable and increase anxiety.

Six in ten of us admit using internet search engines to help identify an illness.

But half do not visit a GP after browsing online, the Bupa poll found.

Many Dr Google fans were worried about wasting their doctor's time, or were too scared to seek professional medical advice.

According to Google, one in 20 searches are health-related, and Australians, Canadians and Americans are the most likely nationalities to search for "cancer" on the search engine.

But some of the most commonly-searched types of cancer - pancreatic, skin and bowel cancer - share symptoms with many other conditions.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said websites like NHS Choices were more reputable than simply Googling symptoms.

"Dr Google is not a trained professional. There is a lot of misleading health information out there," she said.

The problem is so widespread that there's even a term for medical anxiety caused by researching your health symptoms online: cyberchondria.

Last year Roy Morgan research revealed five million Australians paid for a doctor's visit in an average four week period - but an increasing number of them are also going online to research health and medical information themselves.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.

Topics:  cancer editors picks google health anxiety hypochondria woo

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