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“Cancer Center Ads: Are they Truthful ?”

Today, advertising has become known for being misleading and deceptive.  But, could this also be the case for such serious topics as so-called “cancer centers?”  Sadly, the answer is “Yes.”  In May of 2014, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine raised difficult questions about the medical content—or lack of it—in print and TV ads run by both profit and nonprofit cancer centers, including many of the most prestigious hospitals in the United States.  Usually, these ads imply that a given hospital offers superior treatment in an effort to win cancer patients’ business, yet no data and scant facts are given to support such implied claims.  Thus, ethical concerns have been raised. Most ads resorted to emotional appeals to kindle hope of survival in patients facing difficult times. Investigators found that confusing copy often implied that a given center offered better odds of survival than competitors, but did not include actual survival data for the ad sponsor’s own patients. An analysis of over 400 ads from over 100 cancer hospitals, found most (88%) promoted cancer treatments, but only 18% promoted cancer screening and even fewer (13%) promoted support services.

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