In a world with information at our fingertips via the Interwebs, it鈥檚 fairly common to jump online at the first signs of an illness (or an app, if you鈥檙e trying to determine which friend got you sick!), seeking answers for what ails us. While this often聽leads us down a rabbit hole of misinformation (health forums聽and聽the all-encompassing WebMD are a hypochondriac鈥檚 worst nightmare), as it turns out, it can also potentially save your life.


In a recent study,聽Microsoft researchers Dr. Ryan White and Dr. Eric Horvitz, along with Columbia grad John Paparrizos, analyzed 9.2 million Bing search queries from patients whose inquiries revealed that they had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which allowed the researchers聽to detect the cancers as early as five months prior to their actual diagnoses in 5-15% of patients. What鈥檚 more, their error margin for false positives? Virtually slim to none.

The researchers worked backwards, first analyzing queries post-diagnoses (鈥淚 was told I have pancreatic cancer, what to expect鈥), and then delving deeper into those individuals鈥 search terms in the months leading up to their diagnoses.

Developing a 鈥渟ymptom set鈥 for the disease, (including sudden weight loss, taste changes, light stool and abdominal pain), the researchers kept an eye out for these terms and their synonyms in the browsing history of the patients.

Their findings were particularly exciting with regard to this specific type of cancer, as it is one that can progress very quickly. 鈥淏ecause pancreatic [cancer] may progress from stage I to stage IV in just over a year, this screening capability could increase five-year survival.鈥

Whoa. That鈥檚 pretty cool news, if you ask us! If it can even save a life or two, it鈥檚 definitely worthwhile, in our humble opinions.

Are you excited by this detection development? Let us know over聽@BritandCo!

(h/t Hello Giggles, photo via Getty)聽聽聽聽