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US cancer ads come under fire

Study concludes that cancer advertisements tug at the heartstrings without providing sufficient information


A team from the University of Pittsburgh has found that, while US cancer centres frequently advertise on TV and in print, their adverts fail to give sufficient information on the services and treatments available.

“There is a concern in general and among some physicians that advertising may be creating some inappropriate demand for services or providing unrealistic expectations,” said Dr. Yael Schenker, senior author of the study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Schenker and her colleagues used a media monitoring service to find advertisements for cancer centres in major magazines and on television networks during 2012. They found 409 ads placed by 102 cancer centres.

“Cancer treatments were promoted far more often than screening services,” Schenker said. “Also very little information was provided about these services such as risks, benefit and costs.”

About 88 per cent of ads talked about treatments and about 18 per cent promoted cancer screenings. The majority made emotional appeals, with 61 per cent mentioning hope for survival and about 41 per cent describing cancer treatment as a fight or battle.

More than a quarter of the advertisements touted the benefits of a treatment or of screening, but only about 2 per cent mentioned the risks. About 5 per cent mentioned costs and none talked about specific insurance plans.

Despite a Federal Trade Commission mandate requiring it, only 15 per cent of these ads included disclaimers, such as stating that most patients do not experience the same results as the person in the ad. None described the results that a typical patient could expect.

“We would caution patients not to rely on cancer centre advertisements when making cancer treatment decisions,” Schenker said.

Article by
Tara Craig

3rd June 2014

From: Marketing, Healthcare



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