Thursday, June 5, 2014

Well, here's a pretty damning article from the Annals of Internal Medicine about the ethics of cancer centers, "What are cancer centers advertising to the public?"  Excerpt from the abstract: 

Background: Although critics have expressed concerns about cancer center advertising, analyses of the content of these advertisements are lacking.

Objective: To characterize the informational and emotional content of direct-to-consumer cancer center advertisements.

Design: Content analysis. 

Setting: Top U.S. consumer magazines (n  = 269) and television networks (n  = 44) in 2012. 

Measurements: Types of clinical services promoted; information provided about clinical services, including risks, benefits, costs, and insurance availability; use of emotional advertising appeals; and use of patient testimonials were assessed. Two investigators independently coded advertisements using ATLAS.ti, and κ values ranged from 0.77 to 1.00. 

Results: A total of 102 cancer centers placed 409 unique clinical advertisements in top media markets in 2012. Advertisements promoted treatments (88%) more often than screening (18%) or supportive services (13%). Benefits of advertised therapies were described more often than risks (27% vs. 2%) but were rarely quantified (2%). Few advertisements mentioned coverage or costs (5%), and none mentioned specific insurance plans. Emotional appeals were frequent (85%), evoking hope for survival (61%), describing cancer treatment as a fight or battle (41%), and inducing fear (30%). Nearly one half of advertisements included patient testimonials, which were usually focused on survival, rarely included disclaimers (15%), and never described the results that a typical patient may expect. 

Limitation: Internet advertisements were not included. 

Conclusion: Clinical advertisements by cancer centers frequently promote cancer therapy with emotional appeals that evoke hope and fear while rarely providing information about risks, benefits, costs, or insurance availability.


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