Successes of cancer care distorted in mainstream media


Well you can't say that the mainstream media doesn't like an underdog.

According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania and published in Archives of Internal Medicine, when mainstream media outlets cover cancer, they overwhelmingly focus on the positives of a cancer treatment, clinical trial or novel medication by mentioning the patients who benefitted, while tending not to mention patient deaths in the same treatment or clinical trial. The end result is an extremely distorted view of cancer care.

The research involved 436 articles in major newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times and People. A mere 13 percent of the articles hedged the information they provided by including the fact that most aggressive treatments neither end in cure or lengthen survival times for patients, while a shocking 70 percent ignored the reality of side effects, either in the short term or the long term.

Palliation and end-of-life issues were almost non-existent, mentioned in just a couple of the articles, leading researchers to conclude that "These portrayals of cancer care in the news media may give patients an inappropriately optimistic view of cancer treatment, outcomes, and prognosis."

By Ross Bonander

- Archives of Internal Medicine
- MedPageToday

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