(HealthDay News) — Medical science has made tremendous advances in personalized medicine. However, the American public is still struggling to understand the implications of these targeted treatments, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll has revealed.

A large majority (71%) of Americans are unfamiliar with personalized medicine, the survey showed. Two in 5 people (41%) are not at all familiar with personalized medicine, and only 5% said they are very familiar. Among those who are familiar with the concept, nearly half (49%) do not understand that this new type of therapy is typically more successful and has fewer side effects compared with other treatments. On the other hand, most (62%) did not realize that the cost of the drugs is significantly higher than that of other treatments.

According to the results of the poll, the general public also lacks knowledge of some key topics of debate surrounding personalized medicine. More than half (60%) are unaware that the drugs used in personalized medicine tend to be much more expensive than more conventional treatments like chemotherapy. Overall, 46% think the costs of personalized medicine for cancer patients are similar to the cost of other available treatment options. Even among those who are familiar with personalized medicine, this percentage remains the same. Further, about 1 in 6 (15%) think the costs of personalized medicine will be significantly lower than other treatment options. People also do not know that by specifically targeting genes and immune functions within the body, personalized medicine avoids the side effects that result from chemotherapy and other harsh treatments. Only around half (48%) think personalized medicine will have a higher level of success and relatively fewer side effects among cancer patients than other available treatments. The percentage still only reaches 51% among those who are already familiar with personalized medicine, the poll results showed.

Despite this lack of information, the poll revealed that Americans are excited about the prospects for personalized medicine. More than 2 in 3 (68%) say they are excited about the advances in personalized medicine. The percentage climbs to 85% among those who are familiar with personalized medicine. More than 6 in 10 agree personalized medicine will save many lives (63%) and revolutionize health care (62%). This number climbs to 3-quarters among those who are familiar with personalized medicine. Just over 2 in 5 (41%) say personalized medicine makes them less worried about getting diseases like cancer.

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