By Sandra Zunino
“How did I get this cancer? Where did it come from? What are the stages? How will the treatments affect me?”
These are just a few of the frequently asked questions when someone receives a cancer diagnosis.
When fighting this devastating disease, patients and their families immediately seek as much information as possible, but searching on the internet can sometimes provide misleading information. That is why Dr. Mary De Shields, founder and director of the Eastern Shore Cancer Research Network (ESCRN) has created a way for local residents to get the most up-to-date, reliable information as possible via her new website, www.esahec.org.
Dr. De Shields, an oncologist with Eastern Shore Oncology, P.C. in Easton says there were a number of questions that were frequently asked by her patients and she wanted to give them one more tool to empower them. With new research and medical breakthroughs coming out almost daily, the use of internet technology is an excellent resource for patients.
Launched last month, the website includes links to local and national organizations providing the latest in cancer research and patient assistance as well as frequently asked questions about cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“I wanted to design a website that would point patients in the direction of evidence-based information regarding cancer,” says Dr. De Shields, “so patients have access to information that ranges from cancer prevention to survivorship after treatment and hopefully some useful links where they will get some very good information and not any of the things that are frightening and inaccurate.”
Each month, Dr. De Shields writes “What You Should Know”, a column on the website that focuses on cancer-related topics such as the importance and benefits of clinical research.
“Clinical research study tries to advance the treatment options of cancer patients by comparing what is currently considered routine to what might be better usually in the form of a newer treatment and technique,” says Dr. De Shields. “Participation in clinical trials for a patient is very important to continue to make progress in cancer treatment and cancer survivorship. Patients can get access to potentially better medicines and cancer trials usually translates to a better way of treating patients.”
Also on the site is information about the ESCRN, a non-profit 501-c3 organization dedicated to providing educational programs and outreach activities about breast, colon, lung, prostate and ovarian cancer prevention, the importance of early detection and screening, and cancer treatment. ESCRN also addresses the differences in health care outcomes for minority and underserved individuals affected by cancer. Funding for the network and the site comes from state and federal grants.
While Dr. De Shields created the initial website using a basic template and writes the articles and other copy, she says Amy Steward of Steward Writing & Communications in Easton helped her refine the site. She says the site will continue to evolve and welcomes feedback from visitors.
“At this point, the site is in its infancy stages and we would like to have folks log on and give feedback on how we can make it more useful,” says Dr. De Shields. “We are here to serve our residents on the Eastern Shore and keep them informed and linked to the latest information, especially when it comes to cancer treatment.”
For more information about the ESCRN or the website, visit escrn.org or call 410-819-3332.