PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine created by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, allows you to search published biomedical literature to retrieve citations and abstracts of published, peer-reviewed medical research.
Many cancer patients are interested in finding the latest published research about their particular type of cancer and its treatment, or in reviewing the research published by their doctors. PubMed, which includes millions of citations for biomedical research articles dating back to the 1950s, allows you to search its database by author name, topic, or by journal name to find peer-reviewed citations and abstracts of published research. You can also use their Advanced Search to limit results by date, language, type of article, gender, age, and several other factors. PubMed also includes links to many journal sites that provide full-text articles.
Searching PubMed can be overwhelming because of the sheer number of citations it retrieves. While you can view the most current publications first, you will probably have to weed through a lot of basic research to find the clinical information you are searching for. Therefore, it is worthwhile to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes working through PubMed’s online tutorial or one or more of the animated “Quick Tours” with audio. Each Quick Tour tutorial indicates how long it is, and generally, they all take under five minutes. They will save you a lot of frustration and help you build an effective search strategy.
PubMed uses several databases, but primarily MEDLINE, which covers journal articles in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, healthcare, and other areas of the life sciences. MEDLINE uses MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), a controlled vocabulary of search terms. MeSH provides uniformity and consistency to the indexing of biomedical literature, but if you don’t know how to use MeSH to create a search, you will undoubtedly retrieve citations that are not useful to you. The “Searching with the MeSH Database” Quick Tour can help you become familiar with MeSH terms and show you how to find them. The site also has FAQs to help assist you.
Finally, you can also register on the site for a MyNCBI account, which generally offers a more robust and customizable search experience, by allowing you to save and categorize your searches, set up automatic updates, store collections of citations, and set advanced filters. There are Quick Tour tutorials that can assist you with this as well.