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Well-intentioned but misguided support for early breast screening bill

Here’s proof that local TV news can do a meaty job on a meaningful health policy issue. At a time when more local TV news becomes light, fluffy, “news you can use” that you really can’t use, this effort is a refreshing and important use of airtime.

Jeff Baillon of Fox-9 TV news in Minneapolis-St. Paul put together a piece on US Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) support for “The EARLY Act,” which Baillon reports, “would spend $9 million a year over five years on an educational campaign that would, among other things, encourage women as young as 15 years old to perform regular breast self exams in the hopes of catching the disease early.”

But rather than go with the flow of what appears to be a noble cause, Baillon reported that there’s no scientific evidence that screening young women in their teens and 20s does any good, and that it could actually do some harm. has also recently reported on the controversy surrounding the legislation.

I am not aware that the “big 3” of Minnesota news organizations – the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press, or Minnesota Public Radio – have even touched the controversy. I will happily issue a correction if I simply missed anything they have done on the matter.

I know that two of the interviews Baillon used in this piece were captured when he attended a journalist workshop hosted by the National Institutes of Health last month. He paid his own way there. But he wanted to learn more about how to scrutinize claims in health care. This piece is good evidence of what he’s learned. (Disclosure: Baillon was a student in my graduate health journalism seminar in Fall 2008. He got an A.)

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Gregory Dennis

July 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Good for Baillon to dig into this. But he got it wrong. There are plenty of benefits to educating young adult women about breast cancer risk. And there’s a lot to like about the EARLY Act.
Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, explains why in a new piece in Roll Call, at