Seek Out Information
I'm really glad I took the
time to research my options.
It stopped me from
jumping into a treatment
that would have been
completely wrong for me.
—Seth, prostate cancer
Now that you know your treatment options, you can learn which ones are
backed up by the best scientific evidence. "Evidence-based" information—that is, information that is based on a careful review of the latest scientific
findings in medical journals—can help you make decisions about the best
possible treatments for you.
Evidence-based Information Comes From Research on People Like You
Evidence-based information about treatments generally comes from two
major types of scientific studies:
- Clinical trials are research studies on human volunteers to test new drugs or other treatments. Participants are randomly assigned to different treatment groups. Some get the research treatment, and others get a standard treatment or may be given a placebo (a medicine that has no effect), or no treatment. The results are compared to learn whether the new treatment is safe and effective.
- Outcomes research looks at the impact of treatments and other health care on health outcomes (end results) for patients and populations. End results include effects that people care about, such as changes in their quality of life.
Take Advantage of the Evidence-based Information That Is
Health information is everywhere—in books, newspapers, and magazines, and
on the Internet, television, and radio. However, not all information is good
information. Your best bets for sources of evidence-based information
include the Federal Government, national nonprofit organizations, medical
specialty groups, medical schools, and university medical centers.
Some resources are listed below, grouped by type of information. For additional ideas, including links to Internet sites, go to: Where to Find
Information about your disease or condition and its treatment is available
from many sources. Here are some of the most reliable:
The healthfinder® site—sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services—offers carefully selected health information Web sites
from government agencies, clearinghouses, nonprofit groups, and
Go to: http://www.healthfinder.gov/organizations/OrgListing.asp
- Health Information Resource Database:
Sponsored by the National Health Information Center, this database
includes 1,400 organizations and government offices that provide health
information upon request. Information is also available over the telephone
MedlinePlus® has extensive information from the National Institutes of
Health and other trusted sources on over 650 diseases and conditions.
The site includes many additional features.
Go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus
- National nonprofit groups such as the American Heart Association,
American Cancer Society, and American Diabetes Association can be
valuable sources of reliable information. Many have chapters nationwide.
Check your phone book for a local chapter in your community. The
Health Information Resource Database can help you find national offices of nonprofit groups.
Go to: http://www.health.gov/nhic/#Referrals.
- Health or medical libraries run by government, hospitals, professional
groups, and other reliable organizations often welcome consumers. For a
list of libraries in your area, use the MedlinePlus® "Find a Library" feature.
Go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/libraries.html.
Current Medical Research
You can find the latest medical research in medical journals at your local
health or medical library, and in some cases, on the Internet. Here are two
major online sources of medical articles:
PubMed® is the National Library of Medicine's database of references to
more than 14 million articles published in 4,800 medical and scientific
journals. All of the listings have information to help you find the articles
at a health or medical library. Many listings also have short summaries of
the article (abstracts), and some have links to the full article. The article
might be free, or it might require a fee charged by the publisher.
Go to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
- PubMed Central:
PubMed Central is the National Library of Medicine's database of journal
articles that are available free of charge to users.
Go to: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov
Perhaps you wonder whether there is a clinical trial that is right for you. Or
you may want to learn about results from previous clinical trials that might be
relevant to your situation. Here are two reliable resources:
Outcomes research provides research about benefits, risks, and outcomes (end
results) of treatments so that patients and their doctors can make better
informed decisions. The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
(AHRQ) supports improvements in health outcomes through research, and
sponsors products that result from research such as:
- National Guideline Clearinghouse™:
The National Guideline Clearinghouse™ is a database of evidence-based
clinical practice guidelines and related documents. Clinical practice
guidelines are documents designed to help doctors and patients make
decisions about appropriate health care for specific diseases or conditions.
The clearinghouse was originally created by AHRQ in partnership with the
American Medical Association and America's Health Insurance Plans.
Go to: http://www.guideline.gov
Steer Clear of Deceptive Ads and Information
While searching for information either on or off the Internet, beware of
"miracle" treatments and cures. They can cost you money and your health,
especially if you delay or refuse proper treatment. Here are some tip-offs that
a product truly is too good to be true:
- Phrases such as "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "exclusive product," "secret formula," or "ancient ingredient."
- Claims that the product treats a wide range of ailments.
- Use of impressive-sounding medical terms. These often cover up a lack of good science behind the product.
- Case histories from consumers claiming "amazing" results.
- Claims that the product is available from only one source, and for a limited time only.
- Claims of a "money-back guarantee."
- Claims that others are trying to keep the product off the market.
- Ads that fail to list the company's name, address, or other contact information.
To learn more about finding evidence-based information, go to Where to Find