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Presenting the alternative: cancer and complementary and alternative medicine in the Canadian print media

, : Presenting the alternative: cancer and complementary and alternative medicine in the Canadian print media. Supportive Care in Cancer 15(8): 931-938

Cancer patients repeatedly identify the mass media as a primary information source to support their decisions to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Accordingly, the objectives of this research are to describe: (1) what has been reported in the Canadian print media regarding CAM treatment for cancer between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2005; (2) how that information was represented; and (3) trends in reporting frequency and reporting characteristics. Content analysis of all articles published in four Canadian newspapers and five magazines that discussed CAM treatment for cancer. 915 articles were identified: 760 newspaper articles and 155 magazine articles. The CAM therapies most commonly described in media reports were: natural health products, CAM therapies in general, special diets, spirituality, and meditation. CAM therapies were most often described in a positive fashion, and CAM use was most often described as a potential cure for cancer. The majority of articles did not present information on the risks, benefits, and costs of CAM use and few provided a recommendation to speak with a health care provider before use. The results correspond with the commercial interests of media outlets, as coverage appears to be focused around entertainment rather than information provision. The media play a role in introducing a range of treatment options to cancer patients that may not be discussed by conventional health care providers; however, the information provided in media articles appears insufficient to assist patients with informed decision-making.


PMID: 17624558

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-007-0290-3

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