Which media reaches cancer patients? Depends on their diagnosis: report

Cancer in newspaper clipping
Cancer survivors use a variety of media sources for information with use and import depending on time of diagnosis, according to Nielsen. (PDPics/Pixabay)

While cancer patients turn to their doctors first for information, they also get information from pharma and healthcare companies. A new look at cancer survivors' media habits by Nielsen shows that where they get that other data and to what degree they value it depends on when they were diagnosed.

For instance, survivors diagnosed just one to two years ago were more likely to say they’ve seen ads at a pharmacy, on the internet, in newspapers and in direct mail. They were more likely than average to value the newspaper information and said they're more motivated to watch online videos, conduct online searches for more information and discuss ads with their doctors.

Cancer survivors diagnosed from two to five years ago tended to favor online information and valued online blogs, videos, drug company website content, online communities and support groups more than the average cancer survivor. The earlier diagnosed group also was more likely to report hearing radio ads.

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Cancer survivors overall most valued the information they received from their medical team, family and friends, and medication packaging and labels, but they also found information through the media. During the past 12 months, healthcare advertising reached 75% of U.S. cancer survivors on TV, 54% at doctor's offices, and 40% via magazines, Nielsen found.

That tracks with the general DTC surge among drugmakers as they push for awareness of new cancer treatments and medicines. In 2017 alone, almost half a billion dollars was spent on cancer advertising—more than six times the amount spent on all cancer DTC from 2008 through 2014, according to research from Syneos Health. Leading the ad push are next-generation products including Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Keytruda from Merck, Ibrance from Pfizer and Verzenio from Eli Lilly.

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Nielsen undertook the data dive to find out if and how cancer patients' individual journeys carried over to their media decisions, Gerardo Guzman, Nielsen senior VP, product leadership, said in an email interview. The findings show that time to diagnosis is a deciding factor in media choices, he said.

Why does it matter? To pharma companies and others in the healthcare industry looking to reach cancer patients and survivors, knowing when they are tuned in and to which media can help determine media and messaging decisions.

“Pharma, hospitals, treatment centers, researchers, are all looking to reach survivors at certain stages in their cancer journey. This data can be used to assist them in the development and execution of media plans that will allow them to more effectively reach the specific survivors they desire to assist,” Guzman said. 

The Nielsen report was fielded using Nielsen Scarborough lifestyle, media usage and purchase patterns merged with Kantar Media’s MARS health and wellness consumer attitudes, conditions and treatments.