Media reporting on cancer treatment and outcomes

January 01, 0001

Media reporting on cancer treatment and outcomes

These US authors sought to determine how cancer news coverage reports about cancer care and outcomes. They conducted a content analysis of US cancer news reporting in 8 large-readership newspapers and 5 national magazines. Trained coders determined the proportion of articles reporting about cancer survival, cancer death and dying, aggressive cancer treatment, cancer treatment failure, adverse events of cancer treatment, and end-of-life palliative or hospice care.

They found: "Of 436 articles about cancer, 140 (32.1%) focused on survival and only 33 (7.6%) focused on death and dying. Only 57 articles (13.1%) reported that aggressive cancer treatments can fail, and 131 (30.0%) reported that aggressive treatments can result in adverse events. Although most articles (249 of 436, 57.1%) discussed aggressive treatments exclusively, almost none (2 of 436, 0.5%) discussed end-of-life palliative or hospice care exclusively, and only a few (11 of 436, 2.5%) discussed aggressive treatment and end-of-life care."

The authors concluded: "News reports about cancer frequently discuss aggressive treatment and survival but rarely discuss treatment failure, adverse events, end-of-life care, or death. These portrayals of cancer care in the news media may give patients an inappropriately optimistic view of cancer treatment, outcomes, and prognosis."

This reporting likely contributes to the commonly held belief in the US that more care is better care.

For the full abstract, click here.

Arch Intern Med 170(6):515-518, 22 March 2010
© 2010 to the American Medical Association
Cancer and the Media-How Does the News Report on Treatment and Outcomes? Jessica Fishman, Thomas Ten Have, David Casarett. Correspondence to Dr. Fishman: [email protected]

Category: A. General/Unspecified. Keywords: cancer, survival, death, dying, end-of-life care, palliative care, hospice, adverse events, content analysis, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Linda French, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 6 April 2010

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.