Oral Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2017

Shaping patient expectations of treatment and medicine (#3)

Ian Kerridge 1 2
  1. Haematology Department, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Every day, it seems, the media reports yet another advance in cancer care. Better science, better diagnostics and better treatments all increasing rates of survival and cure. In ‘sound bites’ on television, radio and the net - researchers, patients, clinicians, administrators and policy-makers tell a similar story – that cancer, even feared cancers like melanoma and lung cancer – is in retreat. In many ways, of course, this story is true as the insights provided by molecular and cellular biology have created enormous possibility and promise. The media attention given to advances in oncology is also not surprising as all parties have an interest in cancer therapies working. Patients want to live, clinicians want to be able to assist, industry wants their products prescribed, media wants a story and society wants to know that there is hope. But while often this ‘collusion of interests’ works to everyone’s advantage – it comes at a cost. For hope and (unrealistic) expectations may create a technological imperative that can sometimes harm patients, distort medical decision-making and drive up the costs of care. In this presentation I will briefly examine the ways in which the media, medicine and industry shape patient expectations of cancer care and ask whether there is anything that we should be concerned about or whether we should just ‘enjoy the ride’.