on air now

Cyberchondria: How often Dr Google gets it wrong

Using online symptom checkers to diagnose yourself with a medical condition is only effective about one third of the time, new research from Edith Cowan University has revealed.

But doctors say most people are using Google to check their symptoms before visiting their GP.

Dr Mary Anne Lancaster said most of her patients look up their symptoms online, but the situation was worse a decade ago.

“It’s actually better than what it was 10 or 15 years ago because people now understand that a lot of the stuff that you get on Google is complete rubbish,” she told 3AW’s Ross and John.

Dr Lancaster said there is one disease people misdiagnose themselves with more often than any other: cancer.

“Everyone comes in thinking they’ve got cancer,” she said.

“I think they freak themselves out.

“The problem is that you can’t categorically tell anyone what they don’t have cancer. So when they’ve seen that, and it’s in their head, then you’re battling to try and prove that it’s not that, rather than just being able to diagnose as you normally would.”

Dr Lancaster also urged people not to Google the medications prescribed to them by their doctor.

“I’ve weighed up the pros and cons when I’ve prescribed it,” she said.

Press PLAY below for more.