9 of 10 cancer center ads use emotional fluff to attract patients, with little mention of success rates, risks or cost

Battling Cancer Billboard
Cancer centers and hospitals are competing for your business, and a new study reveals what they’re doing to get it.

According to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine, TV and magazine ads for U.S. cancer centers are heavy on emotional appeals, but light on the facts, and may lead to unrealistic expectations (like being cured), as well as inappropriate, unnecessary and harmful treatments.

Researchers conducted a review of 409 unique television and magazine advertisements for 102 cancer centers to characterize their informational and emotional content.

Their analysis showed that 88% of cancer center ads promoted cancer treatments rather than screening (18%), or supportive services such as psychological therapy or nutrition counseling (13%).

They found that only 2% of the ads gave objective information on cancer treatments.
27% promoted the benefits of cancer therapies while only 2% talked about the risks,
and none of the ads cited specific data to support their claims. Only 5% mentioned costs.

85% of the ads used emotional appeals that seemed to equate treatment with cure

 – 61% featured generic messages of “hope”
– 41% described cancer treatment as a fight or battle
– 30% were overtly fear inducing

The authors suggest that cancer center ads that evoke emotions of fear and hope may mislead patients and their families to pursue treatments that are either unnecessary or unsupported by scientific evidence. Cue the shots of bald women and children accompanied by dramatic orchestral music, followed by witty but meaningless tag-lines like “Fighters Wanted”
or “Making cancer history” -MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Nearly half of the ads used patient testimonials, the majority of which are vague stories about survival or cure, but rarely included disclaimers. (For detailed cancer healing testimonials from real people go here)

They also noted that none of the ads mentioned the results that the “typical” patient could expect.
Oh you mean like brutal therapies, physical suffering, financial hardship, cancer recurrence, and likelihood of eventual death? They didn’t mention those?

The study authors, Abel and Schenker, want the public to be aware that cancer center ads are unlikely to give them the straight facts. “Just be aware that these ads focus on emotional appeal,” Schenker said. “They’re not going to give you balanced information on treatments, risks and costs.”

Many cancer charities use the same methods to raise money, which I discuss in my most popular video.

Article Sources:
Annals of Internal Medicine
Doctors Lounge

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Jeanne Newberry

    I’m trying not to be cynical about any medical treatment because I know there are some positive things happening but these kinds of advertisements just get me all steamed. I do remember seeing a cancer center ad with a former patient saying that she was given such and such time to live and when she arrived at the particular cancer center that the doctor said he didn’t see an expiration date stamped on the bottom of her foot. It brought a tear to my eye….I was duped! Or should I say she was duped. I’d love to know if this patient is still alive! Have they stopped running that ad because she is no longer a ‘good testimonial’? I’m pretty repulsed. There must be such fear in the medical community to speak out against the beast of medical-business. Rant over.

    1. Marc Authier


    2. Honeynut2468

      The person you speak of is still alive and productive. She was diagnosed in 2001 with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

      1. Rebecca Cody

        With such a serious and advanced cancer it would be enlightening to learn what she did in addition to the standard treatments. The book Radical Remissions covers situations like this. The patient unexpectedly gets well and doctors call it a miraculous remission. Yet those patients all did several specific things to get the positive outcome.

        1. rjcarr25

          The “standard” care killed the cancer. And today’s cancer fighting techniques are more and more effective at giving cancer patients a cure or long-term remission. New and better surgical equipment and techniques, more targeted chemo, and cutting edge gene research are the keys to better success. I don’t use 1930’s technology when using the phone, driving the car, or at my work desk. Why would I rely on 80 year old studies and research to fight cancer? If you have cancer give yourself the best chance to live. See a board certified oncologist or surgeon. Ralph.

    3. Mitch McConnell

      I think some of those ads like you saw were not meant to dupe people as much as they are to give people a sense of hope. People need to know there’s hope and a chance to be a survivor. My stepmother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997, 17 years ago and although it came back on her and she’s had surgeries, radiation, etc., she is still alive at 82 due to western medicine. There are people who still get cancer that are already doing everything naturally possible and still get it, so how are they going to eat healthier? Professional atheletes get sick. How are they going to eat better enough to then heal themselves without some help? The future of western medicine they acknowledge is through coaxing our own immune system to recognize, attack, and eradicate the cancer through more natural means and not by injecting mustard gas derivatives into our bodies. Sometimes people have to do what they have to do in there individual circumstance. Sometimes they need immediate intervention or it could be too late. With that said, is western treatment big business- you bet, I agree. I think in order to help yourself you need to be doing everything possible and what Chris is proposing is excellent and I do believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. There is a myriad of cancers so when people talk about “I cured cancer!” sometimes it depends on the particular type, location, and staging.

  2. Marc Authier

    CANCER RACKET INC. Its certainly not science. USA makes me puke when it comes to cancer research. Americans should know better but in general you are a stupid and ignorant and mentally retarded people when it comes to health and nutrition. As a result USA is only 42th !!!!!! for life expentancy just a notch above Nicaragua. It pains to me to see what a nation of total idiots you are now today. And you are ruled by mass murdering scumbags like the medican mafia and the FDA.

    1. Réal Fortin

      You have a few valid points in your comment, but your schoolyard-level insults really invalidate the whole thing.

      1. Marc Authier

        I really dont care the way it sound to your ears. The truth is that the FDA has and IS a CRIMINAL organization that is responsible DIRECTLY and INDIRECTLY for the deaths of not a couple of thousand people but tens if not hundred of million of people. A true genocidal criminal enterprises ! Vioxx scandal killed 70,000 people. CANCER now ? Oh I would say a good 5 million people per year the last 80 years across the world. Worldwide the FDA is trusted falsely by other countries as being scientific and objective. Read about Doctor William Donald Kelley, Doctor Nicholas Gonzalez and Stanislav Burzynski and many other doctors !. Just 3 examples of a TRUE conspiracy that has IS a crime against humanity and truly a rape of humankind. The FDA should be put on trial like the Nazis in Nurenberg !!!! SPECIALLY in the case of suppressing real science about cancer. I now know too much scientifically about the subject and the FDA crimes to say the contrary and stay calm. You couldnt if you knew what I know !

        1. Marc Authier

          In sum, the FDA is the BIGGEST terrorist threat to Americans and humanity. No I am quite serious SPECIALLY when it is about cancer ! and the criminal racket these monsters have beeen protecting for so many decades ! Truly a crime against humanity far worse than 20 holocausts !

    2. Teresa

      Sadly, harsh but true, we bought the lies, we are brainwashed, but maybe the sleeping giant is waking up because we have lost so many of our loved ones to a absolutely horrifying death that was delivered to them instead of what was promised, told, advised, hinted at , etc. re: chemo poisoning.

  3. rjcarr25

    I’m grateful for the care I’ve received. Caring doctors, cutting edge technology, and much better odds of longterm survival. Cure rates for stage 1 and stage 2 cancers are well over 50% and even a guy like Chris who has stage 3 colon cancer and has surgery to remove the tumor but refuses chemo still has a 30% chance of a cure. I have stage 4 colon cancer so my odds are lower and the road is rougher but the cyto-reductive/HIPEC surgery I had in October has me cancer-free for the past 8 months. I’m giving myself the best chance to win my fight with cancer. Today’s medical treatments are the best way for those of you with cancer to win your battle. Ralph.

    1. ant

      some of the smartest scientist in the world are in the quack watch list. look at this list for the best doctors. this is a list sponsored by big chemical companies that you are told to stay far away from. if you ever studied this list you would find out just how far out on the ” cutting edge” you are!!!
      look at the Cancer Control Society,Westin A, Price Foundation for a start.

  4. Leanee

    LOL….an army of doctors wielding weapons they wouldn’t use to save themselves or their own families.

    1. BraveNewWhirled

      Many do. Because it’s what they’ve been taught and they don’t take the time to seek information outside their wallet.

  5. Wendy Allen

    I get mad at ads for drugs that cover symptoms of Celiac and don’t
    treat the root cause. Celiac may cause cancer and chemicals etc.
    Detoxing and helping the body get the nutrients it needs may help
    people. Cancer treatment should restore health..not battle. It doesn’t have to be strong/hard. Changing diet and taking things to help the immune system maybe enough. Chemo/radiation may hurt the gut lining and lower nutrients absorbed…make it worse. Gluten/GMO may also hurt the gut lining. Not eating gluten (wheat/barley/rye..oats) and dairy/soy/sugar…taking vitamins/good oils, LDN, Vit D3, Vit C, zinc, fish oil, Mg and more may help. People have been healed by juicing raw vegetables (no cruciferous family) since it got more nutrition into their cells.

  6. Patrick

    Western and Eastern medicine are very different。 The Emperor Book of Medicine (皇帝内经) from China may be 10,000 years old。 The book is available to the public。 Doctors are trained by apprenticeship, not mass produced。 Further more, Medicine is for healing, not for making money。 Eastern doctors, in the past,do not hold patients hostage。 Patients are not money trees。Eastern Doctors sometime provide free medical service to the poor。 In those days, Noon of the Eastern Doctors are millionaires。

    It up to us to share the good news for healing。

  7. BraveNewWhirled

    “We can cut out half your lung from here… to here. Then we can test it and tell for sure if it’s cancer. You’re only 50 so you probably won’t have to use breathing assistance.”

    “What? I didn’t know a PET scan uses radioactive glucose, rather than plain glucose.”

    These are the near-verbatim quotes of a thoracic surgeon, recommended by a reputed top-notch medical care center.

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