Tags: cancer | leukemia | diagnosis | analysis paralysis

Stay Away From Information Overload

By    |   Tuesday, 31 March 2015 04:45 PM EDT

Naturally, most people want to be well-informed about their cancer — but in the process, many run the risk of information overload. You have to strike a delicate balance, which is more difficult than ever in an age when information comes at you constantly from every direction.

I am somewhere in the middle, wanting to know everything I need to know but no more.

A friend of mine who also had acute myeloid leukemia (AML) wanted to know everything — like which mutation she had and on which gene she had it. To me, that just felt like too much information.

For a long time, my sister came with me to appointments. She actually asked questions that didn’t occur to me at the time; her need for information went much deeper than mine. But after I was better, and going for more routine checkups, I asked her not to come anymore;

When I relapsed, she drove me to the hospital. As I slid down in the car’s passenger seat, I told her not to ask any questions about survival rates. I didn’t want to know.

Sometimes the universe (okay, an algorithm on the Internet) puts information in front of us. The other day when I was reading “The New York Times” online, a story about the complexities of AML and a related blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome came up as: “Recommended for You.”

I’m sure it resulted from the many times I had searched for “cancer.” It was just a coincidence that, this time, my own (former) cancer had come up. I read every word.

In a national survey conducted in 2007, researchers from Florida State University and the University of South Florida wrote, “The problem of information overload is especially dire for cancer information seekers for a variety of reasons. Cancer is a complicated disease of over 200 different types, many of which can be contracted at any age. Cancer is one of the most productive areas of clinical research, resulting in the massive growth of cancer information every year. The ever-growing popularity of the Internet has both ameliorated and exacerbated the problem, as it offers lay people easier access to more cancer information while also increasing their risk of receiving inaccurate or misleading information.”

They concluded that information overload can yield “profound physical, mental, emotional and social effects” and even to “analysis paralysis.”

Back in 2003, when I received my initial diagnosis, my doctor advised me to “stay off the Internet.”

That’s just not going to happen these days.

We can try, however, to set guidelines concerning when to be on the computer. For example, I try not to look at my computer right before bed so that my mind has time to settle down.

But sometimes it doesn’t work out, and then I pay the price of a restless sleep or nightmares of recurrence.

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You have to strike a delicate balance, which is more difficult than ever in an age when information comes at you constantly from every direction.
cancer, leukemia, diagnosis, analysis paralysis
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 04:45 PM
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