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Understanding Cancer Center Advertisements FREE

[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

The full report is titled “What Are Cancer Centers Advertising to the Public? A Content Analysis.” It is in the 17 June 2014 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 160, pages 813-820). The authors are L.B. Vater, J.M. Donohue, R. Arnold, D.B. White, E. Chu, and Y. Schenker.

This article was published online first at www.annals.org on 27 May 2014.

Summaries for Patients are a service provided by Annals to help patients better understand the complicated and often mystifying language of modern medicine.

Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the American College of Physicians.

Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(12):I-22. doi:10.7326/P14-9018
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

A new diagnosis of cancer can be frightening. Many decisions need to be made, the first of which is usually where to receive care. Throughout the United States, cancer centers are increasingly purchasing magazine and television advertisements aimed directly at patients with the intent of informing them about their centers.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To examine television and magazine advertisements placed by cancer centers for information provided about clinical services and the use of emotional advertising appeals and patient testimonials.

What was studied?

Advertisements in the top 269 consumer magazines and in 44 television markets that reached more than 1 million viewers in the United States. However, the researchers could not be sure whether television advertisements were local or national in their distribution.

What did the researchers find?

The advertisements tended to focus on the newest or most innovative treatments offered for particular types of cancer. They often included patient testimonials but did not indicate whether the experience of that patient was typical. In general, the advertisements appealed to a person's emotions but did not provide more concrete information about benefits and risks of therapy, what other therapies a patient may use, or whether the centers accepted all types of insurance.

What were the limitations of the study?

The study analyzed the advertisements but did not study people watching the advertisements to see how they were affected.

What are the implications of the study?

Although it is natural for patients with a new diagnosis of cancer to look for the best news possible, they should try to view cancer center advertisements as critically as they view any other advertisements. They should not believe that the patient experiences portrayed in such advertisements are typical or that their own experience will be the same. They should choose where they receive cancer care on the basis of all issues important to them, including benefits, risks, and costs.





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