After New York City graphic designer Beverly McClain, 52, received a diagnosis of breast cancer last fall, she went hunting for information. She bought books. She consulted with doctors and contacted friends who’d been there. And she plunged into an information source that didn’t even exist 20 years ago: the Web.
"When I was first diagnosed,” McClain recalls, “I googled images of [breast] reconstructions. It gave me a huge introduction as to what all this can and will look like. I needed to know.” Later, she sifted through medical studies relating to the effectiveness and side effects of her chemotherapy drugs. McClain even used the Internet to find a stylish short wig to replace one that tangled too easily.
The Internet has thrown open the doors to a whole new universe of information. And today, more Americans than ever—113 million adults, according to a 2006 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project—say they’ve trolled that universe for answers to their health and medical questions.