The authors detail actual situations at Penn State when they felt “googling” was warranted. In one case, a 26-year-old requested that both of her breasts be removed to prevent breast cancer, although she hadn’t undergone genetic testing to see if she was at risk for the disease, and didn’t want to. She reported an “almost unbelievable” family history of breast, ovarian and esophageal cancer and had sought the same surgery at other hospitals.

The genetic counselor “googled” her and found that this patient “was presenting her cancer story at lay conferences, giving newspaper interviews, and blogging about her experience as a cancer survivor. Additionally, the patient was raising funds, perhaps fraudulently, to attend a national cancer conference.”

“Armed with this information,” the authors write, “the genetic counselor informed the surgeon, who subsequently told the patient he felt uncomfortable performing the surgery in the absence of formal genetic and psychological testing.”