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Media May Paint Too Optimistic View
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. “These figures have given cancer a prominent place in news reporting,” the authors write.
The researchers 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.
The articles were most likely to focus on breast cancer (35.1 percent) or prostate cancer (14.9 percent), and 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 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 eleven (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.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Medical Association (AMA)