Health News Review
  • Dec 28 2010

    A leading health policy issue for 2010-11: communicating tradeoffs in screening test decisions

    One trend that stands out from 2010 is what I call screening madness. I’m referring specifically and solely to the promotion of screening tests outside the boundaries of evidence and to the emphasis only on the benefits of screening tests with concomitant downplaying or complete disregard for the harms of screening. Why is this a health policy issue? There are several obvious reasons. If we don’t communicate balanced information…

  • Oct 1 2014

    My article kicks off 5th Annual Health Literacy Month Blog Series

    For the third consecutive year, I’ve contributed to the Health Literacy Month Blog Series.  Today, my article, “Media Messages about Screenings and their Role in Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment,” kicks off the 5th annual month-long blog series. Below is a copy of what I wrote: ——————————— Disclaimer: the following is not an anti-screening message. It is, however,…

  • Jun 30 2011

    ABC News story on lung cancer screening trial “an amazingly unbalanced report”

    It’s been another challenging week for journalists covering various screening stories. First the new analysis of Swedish mammography studies. Some familiar flaws surfaced in some stories. Then came the followup analysis of the National Lung Screening Trial – first reported last fall. This week various headlines announced: • More evidence CT scans better at detecting lung cancer • Study bolsters evidence that screening reduces lung ca…

  • Jan 22 2013

    UK citizen’s jury advises on communication about the benefits and harms of breast screening

    Two months ago, I read on the BMJ website “Citizens’ jury disagrees over whether screening leaflet should put reassurance before accuracy.” I’ve been following some of the controversies in the British National Health Service’s breast screening program for some time. An example here. I asked Angela Coulter, PhD, to write a guest blog post about the matter.  She is a member of the Expert Panel on Invitation Support Materials for …

  • Jul 29 2013

    Cautions on cancer screening, overdiagnosis and overtreatment

    …ent or cause death. Overdiagnosis, if not recognized, generally leads to overtreatment. This Viewpoint summarizes the recommendations from a working group formed to develop a strategy to improve the current approach to cancer screening and prevention. Periodic screening programs have the potential to identify a reservoir of indolent tumors. However, cancer is still perceived as a diagnosis with lethal consequences if left untreated. An idea…

  • Oct 15 2013

    Shuffle off to Buffalo for another questionable prostate screening promotion

    By now, any health care consumer with a pulse knows about the tradeoffs involved in prostate cancer screening.  It must have reached most corners of the US that mass prostate cancer screening is not recommended by: the US Preventive Services Task Force the American College of Physicians: “Doctors should inform men aged 50 to 69 years about the limited potential benefits and substantial potential harms of prostate cancer screening. Patient…

  • Apr 30 2012

    Analysis of two Annals papers on benefits of mammography in younger women

    Results of two studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine point to benefits of biennial mammography screening starting age 40 for women at increased risk. One evaluated data from 66 published articles and from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.  The authors’ conclusion: Extremely dense breasts and first-degree relatives with breast cancer were each associated with at least a 2-fold increase in risk for breast cancer in w…

  • Oct 7 2011

    Thoughtful analysis of the USPSTF and prostate cancer screening

    I asked one of our medical editor/story reviewers, Richard M. Hoffman, MD, MPH, to write about the news stories predicting what the US Preventive Services Task Force will recommend on prostate cancer screening. Hoffman is a general internist, is a Professor of Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a staff physician at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center. He also serves as Interim Director for Cancer Prevention at the Un…

  • Jan 8 2014

    “Our screening sacred cows”

    On The Guardian’s website in the UK, Dr. Margaret McCartney makes a clear, compelling case for balance in public information about screening in a piece entitled, “Patients deserve the truth: health screening can do more harm than good.” And she charges that the British National Health Service “fails to inform patients that health screening often leads to unnecessary and risky treatments.” “It is this failure …

  • Jun 27 2014

    The long list of warnings about community screening programs is getting longer

    Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society has said: “Many of these free screening things are designed more to get patients for hospitals and clinics and doctors than they are to benefit the patients. That’s a huge ethical issue that needs to be addressed.” Three authors, including the executive vice president and chief executive of the American College of Physicians, wrote in the Annals of Internal Medic…




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