The amount of health information online continues to grow rapidly. The issue is: how much of it is reliable? Where can you get good information about radiation medicine? Many people, both professional and patients, want to learn and need good radiation learning resources.
About 50-60% of patients with a cancer diagnosis will need radiation treatment at some point during the cancer experience. As a medical discipline, radiation oncology is a bit of a ‘black box’ – not a lot is known about what happens because it’s not well taught in medical school and many people don’t care to share their experiences. Education in radiation can help a lot lessen anxiety for patients and caregivers. For health professionals, it can help improve care.
Currently, there are a number of reliable resources available online: National Cancer Institute, RTAnswers, RadiologyInfo, American Cancer Society. These patient-oriented sites are static information. There are not a lot of interactive options. Here are a few I know more interactive sites that I know about:
1. Student Doctor Network – This website has communities based around specialties. Radiation oncology is very active, with a lot of interesting topics discussed. Currently I only see students, residents and attendings (doctors who completed training) on the site.
2. Chartrounds – The website is designed to bring difficult cases for review with well-known experts. Its sessions are at scheduled times, and it’s designed for professionals only. I’d be interested to hear about users’ experiences, I haven’t tried it yet.
3. Radiation Oncology wikibook – While there isn’t discussion, the wikibook is dynamic and can be collaboratively updated. It is very well designed, thorough and provides evidence about the the field. Credit goes to Brian Cook and Tomas Dvorak who have done most of it themselves. But you can contribute and help others learn.
4. World Wide Radiation Therapist – This Facebook page has almost 5000 members. There is a nice mix of people in radiation medicine on the site. It’s not officially an educational site, but it does provide a forum for discussion and practical clinical problem solving is commonplace.
5. Radiation Oncology Professionals – This is a LinkedIn group that is helpful to learn about what’s going on in the industry and often has some ‘hot topic’ discussion. It’s a professionally oriented site, so participating does mean possibly standing out more to industry sale reps. But it also may provide good networking and job opportunities.
6. themednet.org – This a nice interactive website that allows radiation oncologists to ask questions and have community members respond. It’s primarily clinically oriented toward doctors. It has some recognized leaders in the field answering questions. Similar to the SDN forums, you can follow or like other contributors. It has a more academic feel than SDN and from what I can tell, it doesn’t have medical student participation.
For dosimetry, medical physics and nursing there may be resources, but I haven’t found them. Have you?
I’m not aware of any great interactive resources for patients or caregivers. Cancer.net and LIVESTRONG are really good educational resources and there are others. But honestly, radiation oncology professionals should co-develop with patients, caregivers and advocates understandable, interactive areas for learning about radiation medicine.
I’ve experimented with Pinterest with an educational board for breast cancer radiation. But there has to be much more. What else can we do to promote learning about radiation for patients and professionals?