Significant Differences In English, Spanish Speakers Use Of Oncology Websites

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Oncology Websites

When it comes to seeking information on the Internet about their health care, Spanish-speaking oncology patients differ from English-speaking patients with regards to both frequency of use and such variables as time of Internet use, browsing patterns, and types of cancer searched.

The study, The Utilization of Radiation Oncology Web-based Resources in Spanish-speaking Oncology Patients, was presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

Spanish speakers are less likely to browse for medical information during weekends and early morning hours, which suggests they may be using access at work or other specialized resources. Readers of the Spanish-language oncology website were much more likely to navigate to the site's pages from search engines and less likely to connect from a bookmark or direct address than like-minded English-speaking users.

While the most frequently searched cancer types among English-speaking users basically mirrored the most common cancers in the U.S. including breast, liver, skin, brain and colon cancers, Spanish-speaking users most often searched for information on gastric, leukemia, cervical, vaginal, penile and testicular cancers.

Additionally, the average visit duration to the Spanish Website was significantly shorter compared to the English-only site.

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By identifying and acknowledging these differences, Web-based radiation oncology resources can tailor content to more effectively meet the needs of their Spanish-speaking audience.

Statistical data was synthesized through an AWStats program (an open-source log file analyzer). The program analyzed data collected from the Websites OncoLink and OncoLink en espanol throughout 2006.

OncoLink, managed by the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the oldest and largest Websites dedicated to providing up-to-date cancer information and resources. The site was founded in 1994 by Penn Medicine cancer specialists with a mission to help cancer patients, families, health care professionals and the general public access accurate cancer-related information at no charge. OncoLink en espanol launched in September 2005.

"We began to translate OncoLink into Spanish to help bridge the digital divide between English and Spanish-speaking individuals in obtaining important health information," said Dr. James M. Metz, Assistant Professor of Radiation and Oncology and Editor-in-Chief of OncoLink. "Our study shows that even though use of our Spanish-language oncology Website has quadrupled in one calendar year, Spanish resources remain scarce. We have to provide for this community."

The Spanish-speaking community, though still not using Websites for cancer information as frequently as English-speaking communities, are greatly increasing usage as a group.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated number of Hispanics in the United States was 44.3 million in July 2006, making people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority group.

In 2006, the number of unique visitors to OncoLink (the English-only site) was 1,864,242, with little monthly variation. OncoLink en espanol had 204,578 unique visitors during 2006, undergoing substantial growth from 6,975 visitors in January to 28,585 visitors per month by the end of 2006.

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