October 22nd, 2018
When it comes to cancer, there is reason for hope. But this hopeful narrative is tempered by the sobering reality that more than 600,000 people will die from cancer in the United States this year and over 1.7 million new cases will be diagnosed.
And for those with metastatic or stage 4 cancer, it is still the case that the majority will eventually succumb to the disease. These statistics cannot be ignored in the messaging of hope for cancer patients.
As the cancer death rate has declined, advertising spending by cancer centers has increased — exponentially. Between 2005 and 2014, the amount spent by U.S. cancer centers on advertising soared 320 percent, from $54 million in 2005 to $173 million in 2014. Today, there are more than 1,200 accredited cancer centers competing against each other for patients, who pay billions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for cancer treatment every year.
- What TINA.org found was that 90 percent of the cancer centers still in business in 2018 – 43 out of 48 – were deceptively promoting atypical patient experiences through the use of powerful testimonials.
- org has catalogued more than 700 testimonialsfeaturing patients with cancer types that have a less than 50 percent five-year survival rate that have been deceptively used in marketing materials to advance the narrative, either explicitly or implicitly, that treatment at a particular cancer center will provide patients with a therapeutic advantage, allowing them to beat the odds and live beyond five years.
As the largest cancer center advertiser in the country, spending on average more than $90 million a year over the last three years, CTCA has paved the way for cancer centers across the nation to use the same deceptive tactics to lure patients to their facilities.
Playing on cancer patients’ hopes and fears
Any cancer center can find a patient who has beat the odds. But using that atypical experience to play on the hopes and fears of such a susceptible patient population has real consequences.
Studies show that consumers in general put more trust in the motives of medical institutions than they do other types of marketers.
And cancer patients in particular, who are deciding where to go for treatment or for a second opinion, may look at these testimonials not as advertising designed to generate revenue but as educational material that provides objective information about typical results.
Enough is enough
That cancer centers would manipulate a message of hope in their advertising to attract new patients to their facilities is simply not acceptable.
Cancer patients who face devastating odds of survival have a right to know the truth and not have their vulnerable situation exploited as they seek out treatment.