Cancer information seeking and scanning: Sources and patterns

Laura L.B. Barnes, Jam J. Khojasteh, Denna Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aimed to identify predominant search patterns in a recent search for health information and a potential search for strongly needed cancer information, to identify the commonly scanned sources of information that may represent stable elements of the information fields characteristic of these patterns, and to evaluate whether search patterns are the same for cancer patients and non-patients. Design: Analysis of Health Information National Trends Survey 4 Cycle 2 (HINTS 4.2) data, a nationally representative survey administered by the US National Cancer Institute. Methods: The search patterns of individuals responding to survey questions about a recent search for health information and a hypothetical search for strongly needed cancer information were identified by cross-classifying the first source of information to be consulted in both search contexts. Using a mixed-model repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA), we evaluated the relationship between search patterns and scanned sources of cancer information. Results: Five predominant search patterns or groups were evident: Internet-doctor (29%), Internet-Internet (25%), doctor-doctor (16%), Internet-cancer organisation (6%) and print-doctor (6%) for recent search and for the hypothetical search for strongly needed information, respectively. Patterns did not vary by presence/absence of cancer diagnosis. Information search groups differed both demographically and in the sources of information scanned. Patterns were replicated in data from two additional HINTS surveys which differed in the wording of the focal questions. Conclusion: Differences among the patterns in various health-related attitudes and behaviours are identified. Implications for patient engagement in shared decision-making, particularly in the presence of rapid developments in health information technology, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-868
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Education Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Cancer information
  • HINTS data
  • cancer information seeking
  • health information
  • information pathways
  • information scanning


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