Trust in ‘Dr Google’ varies among women when it comes to understanding the symptoms of breast cancer, a study has shown.

The study, published in the journal Health, Risk & Society, was conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey.

A team of researchers led by Afrodita Marcu investigated whether women sought health information online when experiencing potential breast cancer symptoms and, if so, whether they found it useful.

Interviewing 27 women aged between 47 and 67 years old, researchers found different levels of engagement with the internet for health information, driven by a range of attitudes and levels of trust.

Researchers discovered that although women are open to using the internet for health information, they often felt overwhelmed by what they found and became reluctant to conduct further searches.

Furthermore, the majority of women who experienced such feelings went to see their GP, mostly because they felt that only a health care professional could resolve concerns about their symptoms and provide appropriate answers.

Other women in the study were confident in looking up information online about their breast changes, and used it to interpret and act upon their symptoms.

These women did not view online health information as problematic, nor did they express mistrust in ‘Dr Google.’

Marcu said: “The internet is a valuable source of medical information. However, it also contains a lot of poor quality information, or information which cannot be easily interpreted by lay people or applied to an individual situation, so it is not surprising that some people feel they cannot trust it.

“The way that a person will capitalise on the internet for health purposes depends on many factors, like the nature of their symptoms or their fear about coming across misleading information, so we should not assume that ‘Dr Google’ is valuable and credible to all”.

The study received funding from Cancer Research UK.

Other cancer charities have been looking to technology to help women spot the signs of breast cancer.

As reported by Digital Health News in October, Breast Cancer Care (BCC) has launched a virtual tool on Amazon’s Alexa that provides information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

The tool can help guide women through a breast check and highlight the eight most common signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for.