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How Time of Diagnosis Affects Cancer Survivors’ Media Behaviors

3 minute read | October 2018

In 2018, the National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 1,735,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. Upon diagnosis, each survivor* will embark on a unique journey tailored by their type of cancer and selected treatment options. Survivors will look to many sources to increase their knowledge about the disease, become more informed about treatment options and learn about ways to reduce future risk of recurrence. The type of knowledge that each cancer survivor seeks is often influenced by the length of survivorship, and as Nielsen Scarborough discovered, so are the media sources to which cancer survivors look for health care information during the first five years following diagnosis.

During the past 12 months, health care ads have reached 75% of U.S. cancer survivors on television

All cancer survivors, regardless of the length of time since diagnosis, say they most frequently recall seeing or hearing health care advertising on television, at doctor’s offices and in magazines. During the past 12 months, health care ads have reached 75% of U.S. cancer survivors on television, 54% at doctor’s offices and 40% via magazines. When asked what sources of information they value the most, it’s no surprise that all survivors look primarily to their medical support team (doctors, nurses, pharmacists), medication packaging/labels and family/friends. But when it comes to additional sources of health care information, commonalities diverge and differences begin to appear based on the time elapsed since the initial cancer diagnosis.

Cancer survivors diagnosed one to two years ago are more alert to a variety of health care advertising mediums. They’re 28% more likely than the average cancer survivor to have seen advertising at a pharmacy, 23% more likely on the internet and 15% more likely via direct mail.  Newspapers also are effective in reaching this group, as they’re more likely to notice advertising in a Sunday paper magazine or daily/weekend edition. They’re also 35% more likely to value the information within newspaper advertising. Health care advertising motivates these survivors to watch online videos, discuss ads with their doctors and conduct online searches for additional information.

Online information is valued by cancer survivors diagnosed two to five years ago. They are 30% more likely than the average cancer survivor to value information found on online blogs/vlogs, 27% more likely to value online videos, 20% more likely to value drug company/brand website content and 12% more likely to value the dialog in online communities and support groups.

Radio ads are also effective for reaching them, as they are 19% more likely to say they’ve heard a health care ad via this medium. Pharmaceutical companies have the ears and eyes of this group, which is more likely than the average cancer survivor to ask their doctor to prescribe a specific drug as a result of health care advertising.

Understanding the factors affecting the media behaviors of cancer survivors is important in order to raise awareness for the disease, educate on prevention and treatment, and raise funds for research.

*In accordance with the National Cancer Institute, Scarborough defines a cancer survivor as anyone living who has been diagnosed with cancer, with the disease either active or in remission.

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