Can you have too much information?
Being a firm advocate of arming yourself with as much information as you can when you are faced with a health crisis, I am intrigued by an article in Cure Today which poses the question, how much is enough when it comes to cancer information? Helen Osborne, a health care provider and health literacy consultant always believed in the power of information, but started to question this belief when she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
“This diagnosis not only changed me physically but also made a profound difference in the way I think about health communication. ” she writes. “Before my diagnosis, I assumed that more health information was always better than less….Now diagnosed, I spoke at length with my doctors about treatment options and outcomes. I also talked with a few women in situations like my own. Most of the time, that was sufficient information for me. I found that I would get more confused and overwhelmed when I read a lot of articles about research or looked at many websites for patients. I also found that new information often raised my level of anxiety as I would zero in on the worst possible outcome and be certain that it would happen to me.”
I recognise this scenario myself – trawling through websites and online forums my stomach did a loop as I realised that the chemotherapy I was facing into may make me infertile. My medical team had not discussed this with me, or what my options with regard to preserving my fertility were. So armed with the information I had gathered myself, I was now in a position to bring this to the table with my oncologist. If I hadn’t done this research for myself, I would have undergone chemotherapy without having made any decisions regarding fertility preservation, and I know that I would have emerged the other side of this with serious emotional and psychological issues as a result. So as you can imagine, I am firmly on the side of arm yourself with as much information as you can about your illness and its treatment, and don’t rely solely on your medical team to do this for you.
This is what worked for me, but back to the question posed by the Cure Today article. What’s the right amount of cancer information? The conclusion Osborne comes to is that there is no right amount. “Just as our physiology differs, so too does our need and desire for health information…You are the only one who knows how much information is enough. ”
I am interested to know what you think. How much information is enough for you? When faced with an illness do you turn to your medical team and rely on their information and advice? Do you supplement this with a little research of your own? Or a lot of research? Please share your thoughts are on how much information you think is enough.