Is Curing Cancer Really That Simple?

Hi all!

Whenever the term cancer is mentioned, I instantly think of the term cure. Since day one, I have been conditioned to believe that there will be a cure for cancer. And I believe that many can relate to that. MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the largest cancer centers in the nation which is located in Houston, TX, has initiated a program to actually make that a reality. It is called the Moon Shots Program, and the goal is to reduce the number of cancer related deaths through specialized focus on the most prominent cancers.

Here is a link to a CNN report on the Moon Shots Program. Along with that, here is a elaborate news release from the MD Anderson Cancer Center itself.

After reading these two pieces, I have had a better understanding that there isn’t really a cure to cancer rather than a specialized treatment that varies for every person. So the question is, does the media conglomerate all cancers together to make it seem as though cancer is an illness that can be treated through one method? Does the medias portrayal of cancer in this way hinder what people can do to prevent cancer?

Also, how does the CNN piece differ from the MD Anderson news release? Why might this be?

Curious to hear your thoughts.



9 Responses to “Is Curing Cancer Really That Simple?”

  1. I don’t feel like the media puts all cancers together–I think it’s pretty well-known what the most dangerous cancers are, and media has been a big part of spreading messages like not smoking, or getting mammograms. What I wanted to see more was how this “Moon Shot Program” differed from previous research on cancer. Sure, $4 billion sounds like a whole lot of money, but they are researching 5 different forms of cancer, and from what I understand, they are not alike.

    Since 1982, Susan G. Komen has spent more than $2 billion of breast cancer research alone (Wikipedia), so what is to say that spending less money on more diseases will finally make a difference? I just don’t think my view on cancer has been hindered by the media, in fact I feel like I’m more informed because of media.

  2. I don’t think the media will ever market cancer as one disease. For one, different cancers make for different news stories, and from a fund-raising point of view, each cancer will bring in its own money to research the specifics of its particular type of cancer further. Marketing the cancers separately makes more sense.

    I also found myself enjoying the CNN article much more than I did the MD Anderson Center’s article. The content was of course very, very similar, but I feel as though the CNN article was more approachable and appealed more to the emotions of the audience. The Anderson Center’s seemed very stiff.

  3. I also don’t think the media really markets cancer as one disease. I do think just the term “cancer” can be very powerful in a news story because it let’s the audience know this is something serious. However, I feel that the public still knows the difference of severity in different types of cancer (some forms of skin cancer are much more treatable than something like lung cancer).

    I like that the CNN article indicated that DePinho is also trying to prevent the disease in the first place, because I believe prevention is a much better strategy in the public health realm. I agree with Becky that the CNN article was slightly more enjoyable to read. It seemed to keep my interest throughout the whole piece, whereas the MD Anderson Center article felt more like it was just spitting information at me.

    • When it comes to headlines that are trying to capture a reader’s attention, I certainly agree that the media tends to lump all cancers together – for example, “Scientists make cancer breakthrough,” or something along those lines, is something that I believe appears quite frequently. But in the actual text of the articles, or in the stories, there’s always a distinction. Obviously cancers are different and those are the basic facts of the article that the journalist is reporting. No media outlet is going to write that a breast cancer treatment will help in all cancer cases. But in the case of a headline the outlet wants to attract as many readers as possible and so just saying “cancer” as opposed to “breast cancer” or “colon cancer” is going to garner more views.

      As for the press release vs the CNN article, they’re going to be different in tone because a PR company isn’t bound by the same restrictions as a news article. The point of the press release is to get journalists interested in writing the story — I found the release to be very effective in this respect, if a little embellished. It is exciting what the MD Anderson Center is doing, and any decent PR person is going to be able to spin a press release that attracts attention. (It helps that this is such a serious issue that affects so many people.)

      I actually enjoyed the press release more because it was so much more detailed than the article. For example, I didn’t understand the point of referencing JFK in the CNN article until I read the press release. I also thought the CNN article’s tone was a bit too informal for a news article.

  4. As powerful a force as media has been in helping perpetuate good health habits (that we’re told are cancer-fighting such as getting a mammogram or eating health), I truly believe that media shies away from talking about the adverse effects that invasive medical procedures–deemed cancer preventative– can have. Thousands of people each year are butchered, mentally unnerved, and uncategorically hurt by anti-cancer procedures.

    I think what’s missing from both of these pieces is a reflection on both the positive and negative effect that “racing to cure cancer” can have. Media and science alike have spent a great deal of emphasis on curing cancer with, in my belief, little attention paid to the effects of some costly and sometimes hurtful procedures. I’m not advocating for no research nor media attention to be put toward cancer, but I am questioning the amount of consideration that goes into a statement like the following: “The Moon Shots Program is built upon a “disruptive paradigm” that brings together the best attributes of
    both academia and industry by creating cross-functional professional teams working in a goal-oriented, milestone-driven manner to convert knowledge into tests, devices, drugs and policies.”

    Where’s the consideration for the people who might be hurt by these “goal-oriented” drugs and policies?

    Media displays science as God, incapable of error, but is that really true?

  5. I also agree that, to me, the media doesn’t seem to lump all cancers into one. Without a doubt, regardless of the type of cancer, the word itself carries a heavy and solemn connotation that demands attention. Similarly, I don’t think that the media has convinced me that there is one way to cure cancer or that there is one strategy to prevent developing it. I thought Becky’s comment that different cancers make for different types of news stories was really interesting, I never thought about it that way before. It does seem to be true, however, that media advocates a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, reduced sun exposure, reduced chemical exposure) to prevent cancer, but this, I don’t think, is the media’s way of telling viewers/readers that there is one perfect way to avoid cancer; there isn’t. I do think that reading health news stories has generally increased my knowledge/understanding of preventative strategies rather than limited it.

    I agree with previous comments that the CNN article was more captivating. Although both articles used quotes, I feel like those used in the CNN article packed a stronger punch and were used to really strengthen the article’s message. Although learning about the different platforms of the Moon Shots program in the MD Anderson piece was interesting, I think for a general news release they were too specific and unnecessary. If readers want to learn more about the specifics they can go to the website and research the platforms and objectives. The reason the articles might have differed though is that they are meant for different audiences. Perhaps the Anderson article is meant for a more specific, medical audience than the CNN article which likely is accessed by a larger group of individuals.

  6. Whenever the news discusses complicated medical/scientific topics there always is the risk of over simplification. The discussion of cancer is one of constant presence, and using the word cancer instead of assigning a different name for breast, pancreatic, or any other type helps researchers, media groups, and medical professions to unite a front for all treatments of cancer. The “cure” concept in the media does make it seem like one pill will solve it all, but it gets complicated to highlight the differences and mechanics in a variety of cancer types. In this case I believe that the singular use of the term cancer allows for people to relate their illnesses and do all the fundraising and researching towards a cure.

    With the idea of choosing better terminology so the public can comprehend disease, the CNN article was successful in writing in a comprehensible way. The article was easy to follow and understand while giving good information. MD Anderson Center was a little more complicated and I believe missed the mark of being readable for the general population.

  7. Although I dont think the media markets cancer as a disease with a single cure, I do agree that sometimes it is referred to in a very general sense, making it seem like a single, fixable problem rather than a multifaceted and complex issue. However, I think this helps rather than hinders what people can do to prevent cancer by bringing the issue to light, even in a general sense, and in some ways instilling some paranoia in readers and viewers.

    I agree that the CNN piece was more enjoyable and easier to relate to. Again I think this was because they took a more human approach rather than the Anderson article which seemed a little more encyclopedic.

  8. I do not think that this program simplifies cancer into one category. I think that they were just highlighting the most prominent types and addressing that those are the cures they will be focusing on. While both the CNN article and the MD Anderson Center’s article seemed hopeful and positive, the MD Anderson Center’s article seemed much more centered on trying to win over the support of the general cause and program.

    I also am a little confused about the main difference between this cancer research and other cancer research that is already going on. What are going to be the different approaches that they attempt and how are they so different than the ones that are already underway. Haven’t researches been utilizing the technology they have?

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