It has long been part of my website plan to annotate the extensive “Cancer Resources” feature. It is fine to have a list of links. But such a list might be much more valuable if it contained an assessment of each site’s features, of its strengths and weaknesses. With over 250 cancer websites listed the task has so far been daunting for me. So I have decided to incorporate a regular post offering detailed cancer web site reviews. A short synopsis can then be added to the site’s listing on the “Cancer Resources” page.
If I were newly diagnosed, the first cancer site I would visit and bookmark is that of the American Cancer Society – www.cancer.org – a simple, easy-to-remember URL. In reviewing cancer web sites I will be the using the following criteria: (1) accuracy and reliability of information; (2) range of features; (3) effectiveness in meeting intended purpose; (4) ease of navigating features and pages; and (5) appearance – presentation and graphics.
The American Cancer Society represents not only the motherload of information on cancers and the cancer experience, it is also the arbiter of many standards of cancer care in this country. Their home page could probably be studied as an example of what web home pages should look like. Numerous choices and menus are well integrated into pleasing illustrative photos. The top left menu lets you choose an information path based on whether you are the patient or family member, the caregiver, a survivor, a healthcare professional, or just a general healthcare information seeker. Clicking on any of these takes you to a page leading to information appropriate to your status. For example, the “survivors” option leads you to “What happens after treatment,” “Coping with physical and emotional side effects,” “Be healthy after treatment,: and finally to “Get more information and support” including a link to their Cancer Survivors Network.
Next, in a traditional menu format, is a Find It Fast section. From here you can quickly go to your genral area of interest be it clinical trials, statistics, smoking cessation, or treatment decision tools. Here you will also find links to various ACS programs for breast cancer, Relay for Life, as well as products from the bookstore, gift shop or specialized hair loss and mastectomy items. In the center of the page, with a yellow background, are two revolving features “In the News” and “In the Spotlight” currently featuring information on dealing with cancer pain. Finally on the right side of the page are three boxes, each with its own drop-down menu, allowing you to navigate almost anywhere in this extensive site. Sections include “Managing Your Cancer Experience,” “Support Programs and Services” and “Resources for Healthy Living” the latter oriented to health maintenance and cancer prevention. Other home page elements include access to various discussion boards (37 of these on different cancers, groups for caregivers, survivors, young survivors, etc) and locating the nearest ACS office.
The size of the organization, possibly the largest charity in the world devoted to cancer, allows ACS to offer something for nearly everyone. This has the potential to make for cumbersome site organization. All pages are easy to navigate to and from, either by use of your “Back” button or the “Home” link that appears at the top of every page. To make it even more easy, the site lets you register and have access to more tools and to the discussion groups. You can customize your experience. You can then be taken durectly to the area of the site of most interest to you. You can receive relevant email alerts regarding new information particular to your situation. You can also receive information on cancer events in your community.
Another useful feature is the “My Planner”. In My Planner, you can maintain a personal calendar and to-do list to track medical visits and milestones, American Cancer Society activities, and other appointments. You can also keep track of your research by bookmarking important documents. And you can share ideas and questions through email groups.
Again, because of the size and aptitude of the organization, the site pages are constantly reviewed and updated to reflect the most up-to-date information. All in all, Cancer.org is the best place to start at diagnosis and to return to periodically throughout your treatment course and beyond. The site is extensive enough to offer you, your family, and your caregiver something of value at every stage of your journey. American Cancer Society :: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms