The Language of Cancer

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I am a member of ASCO and read with interest your piece entitled “The Language of Cancer” in the October 15, 2012, issue of The ASCO Post.

By way of introduction, I am an attending physician specializing in urologic oncology at Loyola University Medical Center. My group recently published an article in The Journal of Urology on the readability of prostate cancer materials on the Internet.1 Although the NIH mandates patient handouts to be at the 4th grade reading level, most of the materials online (and from cancer agencies, such as the American Urological Society) are written at the 12th grade level or above.

This poses a huge problem for physicians and allied health professionals who point their patients to outside reading materials. What are the patients going to understand? Could different treatment options have inherent readability differences, thus biasing their choices?

I am interested in hearing from others and seeing more on this topic in The ASCO Post. ■

—Gopal N. Gupta, MD
Maywood, Illinois


1. Ellimoottil C, Polcari A, Kadlec A, et al: Readibility of websites containing information about prostate cancer treatment options. J Urol 188:2172-2176, 2012.

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