3 Ethical Principles For Oncology Marketing

Since 2000, World Cancer Day is celebrated every February 4th globally as as an initiate led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

Each year, countless activities and events take place around the world, gathering communities, organisations and individuals in schools, businesses, hospitals, marketplaces, parks, community halls, places of worship – in the streets and online – acting as a powerful reminder that we all have a role to play in reducing the global impact of cancer.

Out of the need of communication for this peculiar industry, advertising agencies and communication consulters specialized in this field has been growing though the years. Today we wanted to reflect in what would considered good- ethical- acceptable practices in marketing hope in cancer care. This article is mostly directed to marketing people involved in this industry.

  1. Manipulating a message of hope in advertising to attract new patients to care giver facilities is simply not acceptable. Deceiving data, false testimonials or empty promises texts are simply unthinkable and unacceptable. Just No.

Thanks to the portal Truth in advertising here we have an excellent sample display of what is considered Atypical and Typical.

2. Don’t Play on cancer patients’ with their hopes and fears

According to Truth in Advertising, 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. Some may feel a commonality with the patients featured in the testimonials and believe that their medical journey will mirror the one depicted in the ad. And that, in turn, may convince them to stop their search for a cancer treatment center, even if there are geographically closer, better, or less expensive options available. In fact, CTCA says nearly 70 percent of its patients travel from out of state for treatment.

Consider the testimonial of Jackie T., a CTCA stage 4 lung cancer survivor who wrote: “Yes, it was hard to be away from home in the beginning, but here I am alive, eight years later, so it was well worth it.” But it would also be well worth it for CTCA to inform consumers that the five-year survival rate for patients with stage 4 lung cancer is 4.7 percent, which CTCA fails to do.

3. Wording can be hopeful without being deceitful.

“You have no expiration date.” Come on, seriously. I couldn’t believe it when I watched that video and this is just an example.

Still, marketing by pharmaceutical companies and medical centers can be beneficial. Educational and previsional information is a safe go as long as the black and white rules are follow:

Beat breast cancer, do regular self exam. Be aware. Campaign: Beat cancer, 1998
United Arab Emirates

In Black and White

  • The target population for marketing cancer care is especially vulnerable.
  • Marketing should follow ethical guidelines and be fair and balanced.
  • Exaggeration of claims in the context of reputational marketing should be avoided.
  • Assertions should be backed-up by data.
  • Research promotions should define and communicate eligible patient groups.

For more information about the topic visit:

Truth in advertising

Science Direct

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