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The study aimed to explore the information needs of cancer patients, to solicit their views of Internet-based health information and to consider whether the DIPEx website would have addressed specific unmet information needs of people with breast or prostate cancer. Focus groups were conducted first to identify information needs. Participants were recruited through four breast and prostate cancer support groups in the UK. Individual interviews, in which participants were shown DIPEx and asked to search for material related to concerns that had been important to them as cancer patients, were conducted after the focus groups. Respondents said their information needs had been complex and changed over time while the information they had been given was often patchy, inconsistent, contradictory and haphazard. Access to practical and experiential information from other patients was highly valued. Those with experience of using the Internet expressed a clear preference for non-commercial sites for health information. Sites attached to recognised centres of excellence such as universities or well-known medical centres were also preferred. Respondents were aware of the possible pitfalls of taking health information from the Internet and often compared information from several sources before believing it. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Patient Education and Counseling

Publication Date





57 - 64