Volume 92, Issue 16

Wednesday, September 30, 1998

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Cancer research moves online

By Elliott Platt
Gazette Staff

Western is making great strides in helping breast cancer patients cope through easier and reliable access to the internet.

A $93,000 grant was awarded to Yuri Quintana, an assistant professor in the faculty of information and media studies at Western, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, for a three-year research project.

Pamela Wiggin, director of communications at SSHRC, said although the council receives many requests for grants, they cannot award money to each request as funds are simply not abundant.

According to Wiggin, Quinitana's study was approved by the council on account of the fact they felt it was highly important. "SSHRC is really interested in research transfer projects. This project deals with a key issue of concern to Canadians – health."

The purpose of the research is to obtain an understanding of how breast cancer patients are currently using the internet to make treatment decisions, Quintana said. "The internet has poor and inaccurate information and it is hard to find high quality information, therefore, the research will enable people to understand which web sites are more helpful and easier to use."

Quintana added an accurate and up-to-date web site will also help answer the questions of many patients. "When patients find out they have breast cancer, they have many more questions after they have been diagnosed – people aren't ready to ask questions when they are in a state of shock," he said.

Along with helping people with breast cancer access information, Quintana said students will also benefit from the web site, as temporary employment opportunities will arise. "We're hiring students to help with the project, to conduct interviews with patients, so they can understand their information needs."

A second advantage to Western students involved in this project includes learning to navigate the internet and create web pages. "[Students] learn to conduct interviews and survey, which are skills in high demand," he said.

According to Quintana, the grant is required for this project because of the extensive number of interviews, analyzing and training times. He feels a lot of training will be required to allow people to communicate on a highly professional level with breast cancer patients.

David Spencer, associate professor at Western's Graduate School of Journalism, said he believes the internet is useful since it will free up time for doctors, the information is instantly available and will ensure patient's privacy is protected.

"You've got to see it as supplement and as a source of information."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998