Digital cancer nurse welcomed by Rotherham patient

By Dave Doyle | 03/11/2017

Digital cancer nurse welcomed by Rotherham patient
Michael Gray

A CANCER patient has welcomed a charity’s new “digital nurse”, recruited to diagnose fake cancer news online.

Michael Gray (60), of Whiston, was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2013.

He did not want to worry his wife with scary symptoms, so he went online for information.

But his self-diagnosis only heightened his terror — something Macmillan Cancer Support hopes to prevent with its new appointment.

Michael said: “I started suspecting something wasn’t right about nine months before my diagnosis.

“I didn’t want to worry my wife, so secretly looked up my symptoms on the Internet. 

“The websites confirmed my worst fears and naturally I was terrified.”

He added: “The terror was compounded by the fact I had recently lost both my parents to cancer.

“After my diagnosis and during my treatment my wife avidly looked for information on the Internet. 

“I had to keep away from the Internet, it was too scary.”

Macmillan Cancer Support appointed digital nurse specialist Ellen McPake to answer questions and point patients towards reliable sources.

The role was created in response to a growing demand for online information about cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Ellen will work on the charity’s social media platforms and through its website.

She said: “As more and more people seek information about their cancer online, we want them to know that charities like Macmillan are able to offer reliable health advice. 

“In my new role, I’m there to make sure people affected by cancer have a real person they can turn to online for information about their symptoms, cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

A poll conducted for Macmillan by YouGov found that 38 per cent of people with cancer in Yorkshire and Humber looked up information about their diagnosis online.

Of those, 18 per cent said they went online because they did not fully understand what they had been told about their cancer.

And six per cent — around 60,000 people — were convinced that they were going to die, after doing their own research.

In addition to rolling out the new role, Macmillan is calling for greater support for cancer patients online with healthcare professionals receiving more training on the digital information available to their patients, so they can signpost them to trusted sites.

Visit for more information.

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