Scores on Eight Lung Cancer Screening Stories

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In the last Publisher’s Note, I wrote about our reviews of six stories by six different news organizations on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine about CAT scan screening for lung cancer in smokers.

After that Note was published, we posted two more reviews of other stories on that study.

U.S. News & World Report – one star

NBC Nightly News – two stars

Overall, then, of the eight stories we reviewed on this topic:

* 6 of 8 failed to adequately discuss potential harms of such screening, which can include radiation exposure, needless anxiety after receiving a potentially false positive result and significant medical complications associated with biopsies.

* 6 of 8 stories failed to adequately address the availability of CAT scan machines that can be used for the lung cancer screening described.

* 4 of 8 stories failed to discuss the costs of such screening, which were discussed in the journal article upon which the stories were based. Estimates range from $200 to $1,000 per scan, so this is a significant issue that half the stories ignored.

* 5 of 8 stories relied on a single source (relying only on authors of the published study) and/or failed to present balanced, independent perspectives.

Each story was reviewed by three independent reviewers using the same evaluation criteria.

We will continue to look for such cross-media comparisons and hope you find the reviews helpful.

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