Skip to main content

The Impact of a Primetime Cancer Storyline: From Individual Knowledge and Behavioral Intentions to Policy-level Changes


We assessed the educational impact of a primetime network TV storyline that addressed cancer patient navigators. An online survey was administered after the episode aired. Exposed respondents saw the episode (n = 336); unexposed respondents did not (n = 211). Exposed respondents were more likely to report they would recommend a patient navigator (61% vs. 48%, p = 0.01). Clips of the episode were shown to raise awareness of patient navigators in a Congressional Committee meeting before the Patient Navigator Act was signed into law (2005). Entertainment education can have a positive impact on cancer knowledge and can contribute to policy-level decisions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Dohan D, Schrag D (2005) Using navigators to improve care of underserved patients: current practices and approaches. Cancer 104:848–855

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. H.R. 1812—109th Congress 2005: Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act of 2005. Available at = h109-1812. Accessed 6 Aug 2008

  3. Aiello Bowles EJ, Truzzio L, Wiese CJ et al (2008) Understanding high-quality cancer care: a summary of expert perspectives. Cancer 112:934–942

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. NBC Universal, Inc. ER homepage. Available at Accessed 6 Aug 2008

  5. University of Southern California Annenberg Norman Lear Center. Hollywood, Health & Society. Available at: = hhs. Accessed 6 Aug 2008

  6. University of Southern California Annenberg Norman Lear Center. 2005 Sentinel for Health Awards Press Release. Available at: = hhs/sentinel. Accessed 6 Aug 2008

  7. Holtz A (2007) How an ER storyline helped pass the Patient Navigator Act. Oncol Times 29(4):24–28

    Google Scholar 

  8. Freeman HP, Miller M. How health care policy and entertainment education can help to close the gap of cancer health disparities. American Public Health Association 135th Annual Meeting abstracts. Available at: Accessed 6 Aug 2008

  9. American Cancer Society (1981) Black Americans’ attitudes toward cancer and cancer tests: highlights of a study. CA Cancer J Clin 31:212–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Lannin DR, Mathews HF, Mitchell J et al (1998) Influence of socioeconomic and cultural factors on racial differences in late-stage presentation of breast cancer. JAMA 279:1801–1807

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Margolis ML, Christie JD, Silvestri GA et al (2003) Racial differences pertaining to a belief about lung cancer surgery. Ann Intern Med 139:558–563

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Lannin DR, Mathews HF, Mitchell J et al (2002) Impacting cultural attitudes in African-American women to decrease breast cancer mortality. Am J Surg 184:418–423

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Beier ME, Ackerman PL (2003) Determinants of health knowledge: an investigation of age, gender, abilities, personality, and interests. J Pers Soc Psychol 84:439–448

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Evans REC, Brotherstone H, Miles A et al (2005) Gender differences in early detection of cancer. J Men’s Health Gend 2:209–217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Strine TW, Chapman DP, Balluz L et al (2008) Heath-related quality of life and health behaviors by social and emotional support: their relevance to psychiatry and medicine. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 43:151–159

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pamela M. Marcus.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Marcus, P.M., Huang, G.C., Beck, V. et al. The Impact of a Primetime Cancer Storyline: From Individual Knowledge and Behavioral Intentions to Policy-level Changes. J Canc Educ 25, 484–489 (2010).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Primetime cancer storyline
  • Individual knowledge
  • Behavioral intentions