Public Release: 

Psychologists aim to help Dr. Google

Psychologists are to improve online health information on lung cancer after research showed that family members are more likely to search online to encourage loved ones to seek help

British Psychological Society

Psychologists are to improve online health information on lung cancer after research showed that family members are more likely to search online to encourage loved ones to seek help.

This is one of the outcomes from research by PhD student Julia Mueller based in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at The University of Manchester (part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre) who will present her study today, Thursday 7 May 2015, at the Annual Conference of the British Psychology Society being held in Liverpool.

Julia Mueller said: "People displaying symptoms of lung cancer often don't seek medical diagnosis for several months, which can affect their recovery or even their survival. Online health information could be a key factor influencing their decision to seek medical help. This study explored whether those with suspected lung cancer researched symptoms online prior to diagnosis and if this impacted on help-seeking behaviour."

Some 120 patients recently diagnosed with lung cancer (within six months) completed questionnaires, with a further 24 taking part in interviews.

The results showed that only 2 per cent patients had researched their own symptoms online, while 18 per cent reported a relative had done this on their behalf. Relatives used the information to encourage the patients to seek further medical diagnosis and to check doctor's advice. However, most encountered problems retrieving and assessing online information.

Julia Mueller said: "Our findings highlight the importance of relatives in triggering help-seeking for lung cancer symptoms and that online information contributes to this process. Being able to easily access appropriate information online could be crucial in getting people to the doctor earlier - which will improve recovery and survival rates.

"We plan to develop and evaluate a website that will provide information for those experiencing lung cancer symptoms that have not gone to their doctor for a diagnosis. This will involve tailoring information to the individuals own circumstances, such as age and gender, and whether they are searching for themselves or behalf of someone else."


The study was funded by the Medical Research Council.


Date: 5 May 2015

DURING THE CONFERENCE (5 - 7 May) contact the conference press office on 0151 707 4642/ 079524 84140 or

Editor's notes

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in the UK after breast cancer. Around 43,500 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK in 2011, that's around 120 people every day.

Full poster presentation title: ''Information-seeking behaviour in people with lung cancer and the World Wide Web: Does Dr Google promote early help"

The British Psychological Society annual conference is from 5 - 7 May 2015 at the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC) Liverpool, L3 4FP. For details of the programme visit:

The BPS is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. We are responsible for the development, promotion and application of psychology for the public good. For more information visit

The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, a member of the Russell Group, is one of the largest and most popular universities in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, The University of Manchester is one of the country's major research institutions, rated third in the UK in terms of 'research power'. The University has an annual income of £807 million and is ranked 40th in the world and fifth in the UK for the quality of its teaching and impact of its research.

Medical Research Council

The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers' money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Twenty-nine MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.

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