Why this matters to patients
As a patient, Dave deBronkart feels it his own responsibility to research alternative treatment options, and to find a doctor who will work with him in discussing those options.
Physician’s perspective on why stories need to discuss options
Dr. Steven Atlas, one of our medical editors
Why does this Matter?
- It’s always wise to know your options.
- You should always remember that there may be lifestyle changes you can make rather than taking a drug.
- Maybe there is a drug or other non-surgical option you can pursue rather than having surgery.
- Maybe “active surveillance” – declining immediate aggressive therapy – is an option. News stories usually fail to discuss this viable, rationale option.
- When you hear promotions for screening tests, it is always an option for you to choose NOT to be screened. This is often left out of such promotions.
- Whenever you hear about something new, you should try to put it into the context of what’s already available. And then you can do the comparisons of how effective the various options are.
- We expect news stories on new treatments, tests, products and procedures to give you a good explanation of alternative options, and of comparative effectiveness and cost.
Thumbs Up Examples
The story did a good job of providing an alternative to routine early imaging tests – specifically, the old fashioned careful history and physical examination.
The story mentions mammograms as a better diagnostic option, yet the story also notes that this tool may miss some cancers in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast. The story notes improved and more specific tactile breast self-exam methods as an option; however, there is little evidence that these techniques improve detection of early breast cancers in a large population. The story references current breast cancer screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The story mentioned a variety of treatment options, including active surveillance for prostate cancer
Thumbs Down Examples
There are many options for treating sleep difficulties or morning fatigue. None is mentioned here.
The story focused on the reporter’s own proton beam therapy. The reporter said, “I was confused by all the treatment options: surgery, radiation, various other therapies.” This story didn’t clear up any confusion that viewers might have.
The story also included the reporter’s own recommendation that men should be screened annually for prostate cancer. The option of not being screened was never mentioned.
The story was about one more drug-eluting stent that may come on the market but it was unclear about how this stent differs from those currently on the market.