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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2003 Jul 15;56(4):1201-5.

A multi-institutional study of Internet utilization by radiation oncology patients.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Studies describing the use of the Internet by radiation oncology patients are lacking. This multi-institutional study of cancer patients presenting to academic (AC), community (CO), and veterans (VA) radiation oncology centers was designed to analyze the use of the Internet, demographic factors related to utilization, and barriers to access to the Internet.


A questionnaire evaluating the use of the Internet was administered to 921 consecutive patients presenting to radiation oncology centers at AC, CO, and VA medical centers. The study included 436 AC patients (47%), 284 CO patients (31%), and 201 VA patients (22%). A computer was available at home to 427 patients (46%), and 337 patients (37%) had E-mail access. The mean age of the patient population was 64 (range = 14-93). Males represented 70% of the patient population. The most common diagnoses included prostate cancer (33%), breast cancer (13%), and lung cancer (11%).


Overall, 265/921 patients (29%) were using the Internet to find cancer-related information. The Internet was used by 42% of AC patients, 25% of CO patients, and only 5% of VA patients (p < 0.0001). A computer was available at home in 62% AC vs. 45% CO vs. 12% VA patients (p < 0.0001). Patients < 60 years were much more likely to use the Internet than older patients (p < 0.0001). Most of the Internet users considered the information either very reliable (22%) or somewhat reliable (70%). Unconventional medical therapies were purchased over the Internet by 12% of computer users.


A significant number of cancer patients seen in radiation oncology departments at academic and community medical centers utilize the Internet to obtain information about cancer. Radiation oncologists must familiarize themselves with this resource because of the large number of patients using the Internet. Veterans lack the computerized access to this information and are thus underserved by this important resource.

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