With the ever-growing amount of information available to us online, it is important to remember that Google is an information source and not an online doctor.
The term ‘cyberchondria’ refers to the sprawling anxiety caused by looking up medical symptoms on the internet. Ironically the resulting stress can actually cause our immune system to function worse and create more panic. This is something I have seen a lot more of in my practice over the years as the internet has become an ingrained part of all our lives.
If you do encounter an issue, the important thing to remember is not to panic. Google shows us the very worst-case scenario, the very worst outcomes. It even displays images that instill further fear and terror. In the absolute majority of cases patients have something either benign or totally treatable. The most important thing is to get your concerns checked out by a qualified health professional, as soon as possible.
Ironically, studies show that many of us hit up ‘Doctor Google’ in order to seek reassurance that everything is fine and end up feeling much worse than before. It can easily spiral into spending many hours on the internet every day, and with every click, the pit of worry gets deeper.
There is a balance that needs to be struck, and the outcome of those actions can be life-saving. I have guided many patients through their worries and fears to get outcomes at the other side but it is important to find a balance between obsessively Googling and completely ignoring our own bodies.
Vigilance in looking out for warning signs is incredibly important. Early detection is the best way to find breast cancer early. This means treatment can start as early as possible.
Utilising my easy to follow ‘three step’ process, LOOK, LIFT, FEEL, which is a simple breast examination you can undertake yourself at home in front of the mirror, is the ideal way to check the health of your breasts on a regular basis. It is not meant to replace regular check ups, but rather supplement them in between check ups and annual scans. If you find anything concerning, you can make an appointment with your GP who will then determine the next best steps.
Spending too much time on Google only contributes to the worry already being felt and then impacts our overall health and wellness.
The upshot is that the worry caused by the information found on Google can make you more anxious. My advice is, if you are worried about something, speak to your GP.
You can find a lot of helpful information on my website about what to expect if you are referred to a breast cancer surgeon: https://drsanjaywarrier.com.au/helpful-links
It’s so important to remember that your GP and surgeons like myself have had many, many years of education and experience in this. They can see you and speak to you whereas Google cannot. There is no point worrying about the worst-case scenario when in the vast majority of times, it is nothing to worry about. The only person who can provide a diagnosis or suggest a suitable treatment is a qualified medical professional.
Even if you don’t notice any physical signs of lumps and bumps in your breasts, it is important for women aged 50 to 75 to have a breast screen every two years as breast screening can detect cancerous tissue that is invisible to the hand or naked eye. Even if a lump is not cancerous, they can be important indications of other conditions such as mastitis or cysts.