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Patients Emotionally Misled by Cancer Center Ads

The fact that cancer centers are for-profit businesses, ones that get rich by preying on the sickest patients in our communities, is disturbing. And to add to that dismay, a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that cancer centers not only spend millions of dollars on advertising, but that advertising for cancer centers has become more emotionally manipulative and designed to mislead patients over the past decade.

Cancer Center Advertising: What You Need to Know

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An article in, which summarized the JAMA study, reports that ad spending by 890 U.S. cancer centers nearly tripled between the years of 2004 and 2014 – from $54 million to $173 million. What’s more, 20 centers in the U.S. account for 86 percent of that spending, and three of the top four are located in the Philadelphia area. For example Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the large, for-profit cancer treatment business with five centers, which spent $101.7 millions on ads.

According to the JAMA article, not only are such centers spending a lot in order to attract patients, but they are also spending a lot in order to advertise that the treatment they provide is better and will save patients. But is that so? According to physician and medical communication researcher for Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Steve Woloshin, the ads make appeals based on emotion, not on fact; they delude patients into believing that they can be saved if they make the right choice. Researchers in the study stated that the ads actually add to the cost of care, but do not improve the quality of care. In fact, of the 20 top spenders for ads, only nine of those have received designation from the National Cancer Institute, a high distinction.

Are Such Ads Legal?

The ethics of these ads may be debatable, but the morality of them is not. Cancer ads often use the results of atypical cases in order to draw people in. For example, consider an ad that showcases a 68-year-old patient, with a tagline that explains that the patient suffered from a “rare gastrointestinal tumor,” and was told – 15 years ago – that they only had 18 months to live. Ads such as these are intended to convince patients that visiting a cancer center will change the outcome. By focusing on miracles, cancer centers target – and often successfully – patients’ emotions.

Our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys Want to Help

At the law firm of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., we support patients having access to the quality care that they need and deserve. If you believe you did not receive the quality care you or your family were promised, you may wish to contact our knowledgeable Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys online or by phone.

Contact us for your consultation (215) 567-3500