Health: Misleading online ads a risk to women, medics fear

Legend, Liz O’Riordan, a former breast surgeon, said she had no idea what kind of misinformation her patients were being subjected to online.

Women are being targeted and exploited by a rise in poorly researched online alternative treatments as NHS services struggle to keep up with demand, doctors and campaigners have said.

Some alternative treatments may conflict with prescribed medications or mask more sinister symptoms.

Liz O’Riordan, a former breast surgeon who later developed breast cancer three times, said she had “no idea” what her patients were looking at online before she fell ill herself.

She said: “The minute I was diagnosed with cancer, people online were telling me to use iodine, or to detox and stop sugar, or to go on a keto diet – had I tried this or that medication?

  • Author, Jenny Rees
  • Role, BBC Wales Health Correspondent
Video caption, Women warn alternative treatments could put their health at risk

“I had no idea how much misinformation there was. It can seem like conspiracy theories and cults – and cancer is really terrifying.”

She said she understood the appeal of glowing product testimonials online, with promises of cures at a high cost, and so she tried to use her experience to bridge the gap.

Some advertised herbs and supplements may interact with cancer treatments like tamoxifen, she added.

“Before, I had 10 minutes to tell someone they had cancer and what treatment they were going to receive.

“It’s not enough – we don’t have enough time to follow medical treatments, let alone the survival issues.”

She added that the internet had “exploded” with targeted social media ads and testimonials that “could be written by AI.”

Image source, Liz O’Riordan

Legend, Liz O’Riordan had to give up her job as a breast surgeon at the age of 43, after her own breast cancer returned for a third time.

Ms O’Riordan is among the speakers at the Everywoman Festival in Cardiff, now in its second year, launched by colorectal surgeon Julie Cornish.

Ms Cornish said she had seen a small number of patients at her clinics in recent years who had paid for alternative treatments from unqualified practitioners.

She said some had cancers which could have been successfully treated if they had appeared earlier and some “red flag” symptoms had not been overlooked.

“Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is one of the key areas,” she said.

“My concern is that patients are self-medicating, but it’s a diagnosis of exclusion and you need to make sure you’ve ruled out cancer or an underlying disease first.

“Once you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, some complementary therapies may be helpful for some people, but some advertise ‘effective’ regimens that are expensive and don’t necessarily have the evidence to support them.”

She said she has seen an increase in expensive probiotics with supplements and claims of “100% treatment success,” but “these custom vitamin complexes can be somewhat misleading.”

Legend, Julie Cornish created Everywoman Festival to improve knowledge about women’s health

She created the Everywoman Festival, a series of talks and workshops on a range of health issues, to educate women about what is normal and reduce the stigma associated with it.

Online health misinformation is not limited to cancer patients or a certain age group.

Molly Fenton, 21, founded Love Your Period when she was 16 and said she saw girls as young as eight receiving advice on supplements to “balance their hormones” on social media.

“I put my hands up and say I’m the type to look up anything on TikTok, before I look it up on Google, but it’s very difficult to check what someone puts in a video,” she said. declared.

“You might get some really good content, but you might also get some really harmful or bad content, and deciphering between the two is really difficult because there are no tools in place to allow that to happen.

Legend, Molly Fenton said she had seen girls as young as eight years old asking for advice on hormone balancing treatments on social media.

“Women’s health is an ideal marketing opportunity right now,” she said.

“It’s a very vulnerable space because there is a huge gap in the market due to lack of education and lack of knowledge.”

Ms Fenton said she was regularly contacted to endorse products on social media but never did so due to credibility concerns.

“If there’s a pink box, they’ll basically try to convince you to sell it.”

Image source, Jenny Smith Photography

Legend, Diane Danzebrink said the menopause landscape had changed a lot in the decade she had been campaigning for improvement.

Menopause Support founder Diane Danzebrink said conversations around the condition had intensified, but it had also become a “very competitive business landscape”.

“I’ve seen a lot of headlines in trade publications about the menopause movement and the value of the menopause space, so it’s clear that brands and marketers are very aware of this space,” she said. -she declared.

“Social media has grown significantly around the menopause, and it can be very positive and make people aware of what’s happening to them.

“But it’s also very important to recognize that there can be a lot of misinformation out there as well.”

Danzebrink said the health risks from these products may be low – although some products may have contraindications with prescribed medications – but there are other concerns.

“I remember one person who came to tell me about her experience of menopause and she brought 12 different supplements that she was taking, with a significant monthly cost.

“I asked which ones worked and his response was, ‘I don’t know, but I’m too scared not to take them.’

Through a campaign called Make Menopause Matter, she has long called for mandatory training for health professionals, which she says would help reduce wait times and the need to seek unproven alternatives.

“Demand cannot currently be met in what should be NHS services, and so we have seen an increase in what I would call associated services. We have seen an increase in products and a proliferation of private menopause clinics.” she says.

News Source :
Gn Health

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