Cancer charity appoints 'fake news' nurse to combat web lies

A cancer charity has appointed its first digital nurse to combat "fake news" online.

Ellen McPake will answer questions on Macmillan's social platforms in a bid to direct patients away from "unverified statistics, fake news and horror stories" online.

Macmillan Cancer Support fears patients are turning to websites for information that leaves them needlessly frightened and at risk of bogus cures.

The charity points to one online search that brings up a website claiming chemotherapy is a bigger killer than cancer itself, while another site reports that baking soda can cure breast cancer.

Ms McPake's appointment comes as Macmillan research, conducted by YouGov, found 37% of people in Scotland with cancer looked up information about their diagnosis online.

An estimated 3,450 people, 4% of Scottish cancer patients who looked online for information, thought they were going to die.

Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: "It's understandable that people go online to look up their diagnosis, but it's vital they get information from reliable sources.

"It's important people have access to trusted information online and know how to separate websites that are accurate and reputable from those with incorrect or even dangerous information."

More people than ever turn to the web for medical information. Credit: PA

The charity is concerned some patients look online because they are leaving appointments without the information they need.

Headteacher Kay Robertson, 51, used the internet extensively to find information about her illness, after being diagnosed with liver cancer in March 2014

The mother-of-two said: "I googled everything, all the way through my cancer. I was lucky that I had a fantastic consultant and a Macmillan nurse who explained things really well, but there was always something I needed to look up.

"Everyone is just so used to getting information instantly now that going online is inevitable.

"There is so much false information out there. I was careful to only look at websites I knew I could trust like Macmillan or the NHS."

Ms McPake said: "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."