The good news: Cancer is a hot topic nowadays in terms of media coverage. The bad news: it’s not always positive. This is according to a report by the not-for-profit organization CancerCare based on an independent analysis by CARMA International.
Media coverage of cancer has increased since 2004, the report said, and many of the reports are on cancer treatments and cancer research.
Of all cancer types, lung caner seems to be the most popular with the press, but with emphasis on its link to cigarette smoking. Forty-four percent (44%) of all coverage of lung cancer is linked to tobacco and cigarette use.
While the smoking-lung cancer link is a medical fact, many people feel that the reporting is a bit on the biased side. After all, there is more to lung cancer than just smoking. Many lung cancer patients are non-smokers.
“The prominence of smoking in media reports on lung cancer may be contributing to the stigma that lung cancer patients say they feel, regardless of whether or not they have smoked,” said Diane Blum, Executive Director of CancerCare. “We’re hopeful that research on new screening methods and new treatments will broaden the scope of lung cancer coverage and help reduce the stigma that people with lung cancer feel.”
Next to lung cancer, breast cancer is another popular topic but most reports are in a more benevolent tone – mainly focusing on personal survivorship. In fact, breast cancer has the “highest favourability rating.” Other cancers covered were colorectal and prostate cancer.
Lung cancer is attracting a lot of media attention but perhaps for the wrong reason. Compared to the other 3 cancers analyzed, it garnered the lowest number of stories relating to treatment. Stories on breast cancer often feature personal stories of survivors or celebrities campaigning for breast cancer awareness. Lung cancer stories seldom, if ever, mention about survivorship.
“CancerCare works with lung cancer patients and survivors every day, and we know a lung cancer diagnosis can be frightening for patients, families and caregivers,” said Win Boerckel, CancerCare’s National Lung Cancer Program coordinator. “We encourage the press to consider how they report on lung cancer, specifically the prominence of smoking as a risk factor, and to include survivor stories and resources when possible.”
Other important findings of the study are:
- Cancer research was the most discussed issue in cancer coverage during the 2007-2008 period.
- Of the four cancers, lung cancer had the greatest increase in coverage volume between this period and last period.
- Positive message penetration-that is, stories carrying at least one positive message-declined from 36 percent during the 1999-2000 period to only 28 percent in 2007-2008.
- Of the four cancers analyzed, lung cancer garnered the lowest percentage of stories discussing treatment (24 percent).
- No lung cancer survivors were quoted in the lung cancer coverage analyzed for the 2007-2008 period.
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