“Dr. Google”

Artist not cited

When reading Colm Toibin’s essay collection I found the one on cancer particularly intriguing. Toibin spent hours using only Google to self-diagnose his condition. It took a long time before he finally went to a doctor and found that not only had he misdiagnosed his situation, but also that the cancer had already spread beyond its original site.

Typing symptoms into Google tempts many of us, but frequently we come up with the wrong conclusion. I am reminded of my neighbor who rushed over in the summer cradling his little dog. He was certain that the growth on the dog’s abdomen was cancer. Google had a photo that looked just like the one on the dog.

Fortunately he gave “Doctor Charlie”(my husband, not a doctor on tv or in real life) a chance to take a close look at the swollen bump. A calm inspection revealed that the dog was the victim of a very voracious tick, still attached, still feasting. With a deft hand and groans of disgust all around, Charlie removed and destroyed the tick.

No wonder so many veterinary practices use the above image to point out that Google isn’t a veterinarian.

30 thoughts on ““Dr. Google”

  1. That’s an amusing story with a gentle reminder to be careful when self-diagnosing.

    I have a relative who laughs at herself for always jumping to the direst conclusion. Every time she had a severe headache, which was rare, she was convinced she had a brain tumor.


  2. My wife works as a receptionist for our local doctors practice. Almost everyone who arrives thinks they already know what is wrong with them, according to Google. Then they get to see a doctor, and argue with them if their theories are not confirmed.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. HI Elizabeth, I am familiar with the pitfalls of reading up on medical issues using Google. I am rather bad and do this often, but only after the doctor has made a diagnosis. In other words, I use Google to read more about the condition which is also frequently ill advised as I always get the worst case scenario presented and get into a panic. I still can’t stop myself, but I make a list of questions for the real doctor to answer.


  4. When there are so many people waiting for serious treatment at the moment you don’t want to bother doctors with something that might be nothing.
    I confess I do google my ailments, and my husband’s meds. Usually I’m told my niggles aren’t serious, but I’d probably guessed that anyway. I did keep pushing about my hip pain though when it started getting in the way and eventually got an x-ray which confirmed arthritis was eating it away. Not bad enough to start thinking about replacements yet, but knowing it wasn’t going to go away did get me searching out exercises (which actually have helped a lot).


    1. I use it too, particularly when I already know what I am dealing with. I have watched videos before procedures which are upcoming and make me anxious. Those have helped a lot. I will say I misdiagnosed my pain as being in the hip joint when it wasn’t! Exercises ease mine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m working on my knee now. I know it isn’t a case of the pain’s moved down – it’s a separate disintegration… But it does feel as though when I’m getting to grips with the hip pain it’s moved down to my knee to escape my exercises.


        1. My sports doctor has unhelpfully pointed out that the old saw about the thigh bone attached to the knee bone etc is true. I vacillate between knee and hip pain if I am not careful.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. the worst pain hits at the point where I put my weight on a lower stair, although lately I’ve been feeling the knee while out walking the dogs, which never happened before. At the moment we’re at the flat near London. It’s all ground floor and there are no stairs, so I’ll be interested to find out if the knee feels better when we go home (back to two storeys and stairs) after the week’s relative rest. Or not!


  5. Now that I have so many ailments to speak of, I always use Google to enhance what the doctors told me. Sometimes too even if I know that I spelled a word correctly, I still google it just to be sure.


  6. I confess I have a strong tendency to catastrophize, and Dr. Google doesn’t help much on that front. Which’s why after consulting with Dr. G, I usually go see a real doctor. Self-diagnosing might be a fun (?) pastime, but a pretty dangerous endeavor if taken too seriously.


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