Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Talk of Cancer, Where is Talk of End-of-Life Care?

Researchers examining media coverage of cancer have found that it gives an optimistic view of cancer and neglects negative outcomes and adverse effects, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. From HemOnc Today:
Results indicated that news stories are more likely to focus on aggressive cancer treatments and survival of the disease than cancer death, short- and long-term adverse effects of cancer, and end-of-life care.

“It is surprising that few articles discuss death and dying, considering that half of all patients diagnosed as having cancer will not survive,” wrote Jessica Fishman, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fishman and colleagues conducted a content analysis of cancer news reporting between 2005 and 2007 in eight large U.S. newspapers and five national magazines. They selected a random sample of 436 articles from the 2,228 that they found.

Articles were examined for various cancer-related topics. Most articles focused on breast cancer (35.1%) or prostate cancer (14.9%), although 20% discussed cancer in general.

In addition, 32.1% of the articles examined discussed one or more people having survived or being ‘cured’ of their cancer vs. only 7.6% of articles discussing a person dying from or having died of cancer (P<.001). . . . Finally, the alternatives to aggressive treatments were rarely discussed. Compared with the use of aggressive treatments, which were discussed in 57.1% of articles, end-of-life care was discussed exclusively in only 0.5% of articles. “The absence of reporting about hospice and palliative care is significant, given the numerous well-documented benefits for patients and family members,” the researchers wrote. “Specifically, hospice programs deliver high-quality care at the end of life, with excellent patient and family satisfaction, reduced costs and decreased suffering at the end of life.”

As death rates from cancer decline, as new treatments emerge, and as the language around the imperative to "win the battle" over cancer becomes louder, how is the relationship between cancer and hospice changing? Next Wednesday, March 24, HFA's annual national teleconference, Cancer and End-of-Life Care will address these issues. The teleconference will be broadcast to communities across the United States and Canada.

The program will include discussions of: The Transition to Palliative Care; Care of Dying Persons dealing with Cancer; Professional, Volunteer and Caregiver Needs; and the Aftermath of Cancer Death. To find a community in your area to watch the teleconference, see our Find a Site map here. Continuing education is available for many professions. If you are interested in hosting the teleconference in your community, registration is still open until 1:15p ET on March 24. Register here now.