Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Media reports may paint overly optimistic view of cancer

Date:
March 18, 2010
Source:
JAMA and Archives Journals
Summary:
Newspaper and magazine reports about cancer appear more likely to discuss aggressive treatment and survival than death, treatment failure or adverse events, and almost none mention end-of-life palliative or hospice care, according to a report.

Newspaper and magazine reports about cancer appear more likely to discuss aggressive treatment and survival than death, treatment failure or adverse events, and almost none mention end-of-life palliative or hospice care, according to a report in the March 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Related Articles


The report is one of three in the issue being released early to coincide with a JAMA media briefing on cancer in Washington, D.C. The March issues of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Archives of Neurology, Archives of Ophthalmology, Archives of Dermatology, Archives of Surgery, Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery and Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery have also published articles on this topic.

It is estimated that one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, according to background information in the article. Of these, approximately half will die of cancer or related complications; more than half a million Americans are expected to die of cancer every year. "These figures have given cancer a prominent place in news reporting," the authors write.

Jessica Fishman, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, conducted a content analysis of cancer news reporting between 2005 and 2007 in eight large U.S. newspapers and five national magazines. Of 2,228 cancer-related articles that appeared, a random sample of 436 was selected (312 from newspapers and 124 from magazines). Trained coders determined the proportion of articles devoted to various cancer-related topics.

The articles were most likely to focus on breast cancer (35.1 percent) or prostate cancer (14.9 percent), and 87 (20 percent) discussed cancer in general. A total of 140 (32.1 percent) focused on individuals surviving or being cured of cancer, whereas 33 (7.6 percent) focused on one or more patients who were dying or had died of cancer. Ten articles (2.3 percent) focused on both survival and death.

"It is surprising that few articles discuss death and dying considering that half of all patients diagnosed as having cancer will not survive," the authors write. "The findings are also surprising given that scientists, media critics and the lay public repeatedly criticize the news for focusing on death."

In addition, few articles (57, or 13.1 percent) reported that aggressive cancer treatments can fail to extend life or cure the disease, or that some cancers are incurable. Less than one-third of the articles (131, or 30 percent) mentioned adverse events associated with cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain or hair loss.

Most articles (249, or 57.1 percent) discussed aggressive treatments exclusively, but almost none (two, or 0.5 percent) discussed end-of-life care only and only 11 (2.5 percent) discussed both. "For many patients with cancer, it is important to know about palliative and hospice care because this information can help them make decisions that realistically reflect their prognosis and the risks and potential benefits of treatment," the authors write.

After adjusting for article length, there were no differences between magazine and newspaper articles in regards to any of these factors, the authors note.

"How often should the news media discuss treatment failure, adverse events, end-of-life care and death and dying? Although there is no quantifiable answer, the same educational goals that ideally drive news coverage of cancer treatment and survival should also compel news organizations to address these topics," the authors conclude. "The media routinely report about aggressive treatment and survival presumably because cancer news coverage is relevant to a large portion of the population, and, for the same reason, similar attention should be devoted to the alternatives."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by JAMA and Archives Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jessica Fishman; Thomas Ten Have; David Casarett. Cancer and the Media: How Does the News Report on Treatment and Outcomes? Arch Intern Med, 2010; 0 (2010): 2010. 11 [link]

Cite This Page:

JAMA and Archives Journals. "Media reports may paint overly optimistic view of cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100316101558.htm>.
JAMA and Archives Journals. (2010, March 18). Media reports may paint overly optimistic view of cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100316101558.htm
JAMA and Archives Journals. "Media reports may paint overly optimistic view of cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100316101558.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) The family of a Dallas nurse infected with Ebola in the US says doctors can no longer detect the virus in her. Despite the mounting death toll in West Africa, there are survivors there too. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins