An important study was published this week showing some of the limitations of colonoscopy.
Journalists’ reactions to the story were – predictably – all over the map.
The New York Times reported under the headline, “Colonoscopies miss many cancers, study finds.” Excerpt:
“Instead of preventing 90 percent of cancers, as some doctors have told patients, colonoscopies might actually prevent more like 60 percent to 70 percent.
“This is a really dramatic result,” said Dr. David F. Ransohoff, a gasteroenterologist at the University of North Carolina. “It makes you step back and worry, ‘What do we really know?’ ”
Dr. Ransohoff and other screening experts say patients should continue to have the test, because it is still highly effective. But they also recommend that patients seek the best colonoscopists by, for example, asking pointed questions about how many polyps they find and remove. They also say patients should be scrupulous in the unpleasant bowel cleansing that precedes the test, and promptly report symptoms like bleeding even if they occur soon after a colonoscopy.
(Addendum: Ransohoff’s editorial appears here.)
But ABC News didn’t care for the Times story, posting this online: “Our medical experts were not convinced that there was the need for the urgent sense of the story providing us with scary news about a test that is pretty darn effective.” The ABC posting was under the headline, “The Case for Keeping Colonoscopy.”
Who ever said anything about not keeping colonoscopy? Seems like a false dichotomy if I’ve ever seen one.
And CBS News, predictably, with colonoscopy-advocate Katie Couric at the helm, again crossed the line into non-journalistic crusading, with Couric ending a segment on the study preaching, “And don’t use this study as an excuse not to get screened.”
Huh? Is that journalism?
Healthy skepticism is a missing element in much health news coverage. It is very difficult for some journalists to question the effectiveness of screening tests. And they do a disservice to their audience by touting opinions, not evidence. The classic clash between intuition and science.
Addendum: The journal also posted this video.
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