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Media reports may paint overly optimistic view of cancer
Date:3/16/2010

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.

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 OtolaryngologyHead & 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 di
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Contact: Joe Diorio
jdiorio@asc.upenn.edu
215-746-1798
JAMA and Archives Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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