These super-headlines on cancer

“Ppromising therapy”, “revolutionary discovery”, “promising vaccine,” or “innovative drug” against cancer. All of them, beneficial owners who often are not 100% justified and that can confuse those who read.

The language to talk about the cancer has evolved over the years. While it seems that this euphemism died after a long illness is already passed, they are still used military or heroic terms not always like patients. Expressions like being a brave or outsmart the cancer have a major impact on patients and their families, as they can give the impression that those who fail the disease is because they have not fought enough or because they have given up.

But not only human way of talk about cancer is important. Scientific language, and with it, the newspaper is also crucial, though not always the most accurate. This is reflected in an article published in JAMA Oncology shows that, when speaking of cancer in the media, too many superlatives used to talk about drugs or therapies that sometimes are not even yet approved for human use.

Terms like milestone, wonder, cure or revolution often used to describe new therapeutic options are discovered this disease, whether the discovery is scientifically relevant but not clinically, since in many cases yet remaining years of research till the finding reaches patients.

Despite describing the drug as promising or successful, sometimes it had not even been tested on humans yet, while others had not yet been approved by the US FDA, the agency that regulates medicines in the country.

The problem you may have is that, while scientific journals have high impact only among researchers, the media do reach everyone, and through them as patients and their families are reported. Patients come continuously to the office with newspaper clippings that talk about new treatments or surprising findings. Especially after the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, when they appear in the media countless news about cancer.

Most journalists (55%) use superlative titles, but the researchers (27%) were the second group, followed by pharmaceuticals (9%) and finally, patients (8%). Personalized medicine and immunotherapy, just two of the hottest cancer researches point were the areas accumulated hyperbolic terms.

The danger is that this news can generate false hopes in patients who pay more attention to such issues: If one does the exercise of looking at everything that was said at the time that would happen in the next 10 years , would be surprised with everything that has not been met.

However, patients understand the situation: If you are wondering about this new gene on the mechanism they have read, we will explain still under investigation, and nothing happens, they understand. Most of the time they are so beset by the disease they need to confirm with her oncologist. All of us, including oncologists, want to convey enthusiasm and hope, but we must do so responsibly.

However, not all faults go from journalists, since often the authors of scientific articles introduce sometimes exaggerated terms to determine the input and journalistic approach. Everyone involved in cancer drugs contribute to this: doctors, reporters and industry all use these terms. This questions the appearance in the news media about drugs that are still in a very early stage of research: History has shown us that very few drugs that appear in the media and had only been tested on mice or end laboratory have a positive impact on people. Talking about them is like telling the story of the boy who bought a lottery ticket but did not touch the prize.