The marketing claims of Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Most of the readers of this blog have probably seen television ads run by Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). They state unambiguously that this organization has better outcomes for patients with aggressive and late stage cancers than other oncology practices and other specialized cancer centers.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink has long been concerned by the way in which CTCA markets its capabilities to people who are faced with the emotionally, clinically, and financially devastating consequences of aggressive and late stage forms of cancer. We would also note that we have no information to suggest that CTCA has any special expertise in the management of patients with advanced forms of prostate cancer.

We do, however, now know a little more about how CTCA appears to go about manipulating patients and manipulating data to justify its marketing claims, thanks to special report by Sharon Begley and Robin Respaut that you can read on the Reuters web site: “Behind a cancer-treatment firm’s rosy survival claims.” We recommend this article to the attention of all our readers, and especially to those with aggressive and advanced forms of prostate cancer who may have been lured into thinking that CTCA offers knowledge and capabilities that other centers do not.

There is little doubt that if you are affluent or have a “Cadillac” health insurance plan, CTCA offers “high touch” care that may make you feel good about how you are being looked after. However, there is little evidence that anything else that is happening meets superior standards, and someone is certainly paying through the nose for your care if you go there — but not if you are a Medicare, let alone a Medicaid, patient.

5 Responses

  1. Right on, webmaster! And to be noted, they do not accept Medicare. Their hype is disgusting, making it look like all other physicians and facilities other than CTCA tell patients they are going to die … and then “CTCA” to the rescue where, apparently, no one will ever die of their cancer if they sign on with them for treatment.

  2. I think there is a problem, however, with the article. I do not disagree that CTCA probably does hype its wares but that is not new to the industry and there is an unfairness to single out one center while leaving many others out. However, there is also a suspicious motive in play by the gentleman that is hard for me to overcome. First he submitted his wife’s bills to her insurance, received a check to pay them, and then attempted to refuse to pay CTSA. When he was sued and lost, he now appears in this article in an attempt to slam them. It would have been a more convincing article for me if his hands were clean. If he had been helping the insurance company fight these “ridiculous” charges that’s one thing, but that’s not what appeared to happen. Even if was proven that that CTCA had mislead his family, that money is not his to keep.

    There are also a lot of well-known prostate cancer doctors who do not take Medicare or Medicaid. And they are very well known. Perhaps what they do that gets approval is they don’t report their statistics hardly at all?

  3. Tony:

    I don’t think anyone is trying to justify the behavior of the patient who’s wife died. If that was the case, the journalists who wrote the story woudn’t have included the information you refer to.

    In addition, no one is suggesting that every doctor has to accept Medicare or Medicaid. However, I don’t see the physicians you refer to running TV and radio advertising claiming that their results are better than anyone else’s.

    In all honesty, we were probably all better off when professionals like physicians and lawyers (and hospitals too for that matter) considered it to be unethical to advertise their services.

  4. I certainly don’t mean to bring a negative tone to the gentleman that lost his wife. That is a tragedy, indeed. I just think the journalist should have found another case study altogether rather than buried the possible motivation to participate in the negativity of the article into the very last two paragraphs. I do think there was a bias in play.

    I agree with your last paragraph the most. But besides TV and radio, books and promoting them is another method of advertising one’s wares. While I’m not saying all of them, or any one in particular, set out with such an intent, there’s a lot of prostate cancer books out there, with it in mind that it will also be good advertising.

    In addition, going to the web sites of most centers and private practices shows me that there’s a lot of “number skewing” going on all over the industry. To single out CTCA because of their methodology is very selective.

    But the topper for me is that I don’t trust the press. There is quite a bit of skewing in the world of journalism and I’ll always consider that before a chew on an article like this too much. …

    I think the lessen about advertising is a good one. Every patient should know that skewing data is a common phenomena that is all over the advertising world whether your are choosing a cancer facility or a cereal. Cherrios may be as heart healthy as advertised, but reading the ingredients might change your reasoning to use that as your encouragement to buy it.

    Caveat emptor!

  5. Tony:

    I will just say that — in my opinion — Sharon Begley (one of the two authors of this article) is perhaps one of the very best and most “neutral” journalists writing about science and medicine today.

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