Last time, I discussed the free patient education sites from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), Medline Plus, and PubMed Health. Consumer oriented data is right for many people, but when faced with difficult decisions many patients and their families will want to see the studies from the actual medical journals that their physician and health care team are reading.
Medline is the grand daddy of all on-line services, a vast, computerized index of the world’s leading medical journals, mostly American or British, and an increasing number of international and foreign language titles written in English or with English abstracts. It has been in existence continuously since 1966 and, since the mid-Nineties it has been available free on the Internet in the form of the PubMed system.
The names of the NLM databases are similar, so don’t be confused: PubMed is the system that medical librarians and end-user physicians use to search the literature; it is extensive, comprehensive, and reproducible – a key to be useful as a scientific tool.
Below, please find a search guide to PubMed – many patients who stumble across Medline will try to use the search box on the front page like Google, and while it can work that way, this is not the best way to search PubMed.
Medical subject headings (MESH) help narrow down the choices and zero in on exactly what you are looking for!
HOW PATIENTS CAN SEARCH MEDLINE LIKE A MEDICAL LIBRARIAN
In PubMed, to lower right, under More Resources, select “MESH DATABASE”
Type in a medical term – use your best estimate of proper medical language to map to the best results. Note: It is always best to use the search term neoplasms and not cancer i.e. prostatic neoplasms or breast neoplasms or colonic neoplasms etc. Multiple myeloma is multiple myeloma, lymphoma is lymphoma, leukemia is leukemia etc. If you are not sure of the term, the system will map you to most reasonable attempts at medical language. Be aware that brand names of drugs like Rituxan or Lupron will map to the chemical or generic name (Rituximab or Leuprolide Acetate)
Select the MESH (medical subject heading) you want to left in blue hyper-text.
To be more specific to the search term, click Restrict to Major Focus below for the best results. To search all related headings, leave as the default, which is the Explode MESH option.
Check off sub-headings you want i.e. drug therapy, surgery, radiation therapy etc.
After you check off sub-heads, click on Add to Search Builder to the right.
Add additional terms, as in 4-7 in the MESH browser box at top.
When done, Search PubMed.
You can select free full-text articles available from results in PubMed (to the left) then select blue hypertext titles to left and download the PDF (You will need Adobe Reader to view). Articles which do not have free full-text will have abstracts.
John Theurer Cancer Center at HackensackUMC has access to many more online journals. So if you see references that you like, you can send the citation (journal name, volume, issue, date, page number) to the Patient Resource Library and they can be downloaded for you and sent via email from our Medical Library for free.
Regrettably, we are unable to fill any patient requests for literature which are not in our Medical Library (such as Nature Medicine etc.) You may be able to buy and download many of these articles for a modest fee (about $20) for personal use off the publisher’s web site.
FOR SEARCH HELP
Ron Rizio MLS, Consumer Health Librarian
Patient Resource Library, John Theurer Cancer Center
1st Floor (Lobby Floor across from the Cyber Café) firstname.lastname@example.org
201-996-2135 (there is voice mail)