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Breast Cancer: when is the news not fit to print?

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Veteran science journalist Boyce Rensberger wrote under that headline on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker:

“A search for “breast cancer” in Google News yielded the following stories published in the past few days, listed here by their headlines:

Mammograms cut risk of breast cancer death by half

Study faults partial radiation for breast cancer

Diabetes, obesity after 60 may up breast cancer risk

Study supports mammograms for women in their 40s

Pfizer jury awards $72 million after finding Prempro caused breast cancer

Breast cancer planner helps in treatment and recovery

Federal Breast Density Inform solution sought (informing women about their breast density which can mask tumors)

Family history not a factor in rates of invasive disease, nodal development

You get the idea.  All kinds of claims and counterclaims are pretty much always flying. Some stories were okay. Almost none gave significant background or context. A few medical writers were gulled into parroting thin claims as conclusive findings.”

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Comments (4)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

J.daniel Flaysakier

December 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

I am attending the SABCS meeting. There are a lot of ‘weak studies’ with non significant outcomes or questionable design. But once they are presented in press conferences they lose their original sin, no discussion and immediately.online. One of the main news agency, Agence France Presse is not even here but works from press releases. One of the studies which was highly criticized during the sessions has become a ‘New standard of care’ Pity !

Gregory Dennis

December 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

Boyce and Daniel make excellent points. Nowhere is this problem more obvious than in reporting on breast cancer. For example, a report out of the San Antonio conference about a study on breast brachytherapy – covering an antiquated form of the therapy used before several, notably more effective methods were even available to patients – has caused tremendous concern and even panic among women who received brachytherapy.

We put together a teleconference yesterday featuring for top physicians who are experts in breast brachytherapy. The call was organized at the researchers’ request because they wanted to get the word out about problems with this study. (Disclosure: my firm represents a maker of a form of breast brachytherapy – but note that it was competing forms of breast brachytherapy, , not my clients’, that were highlighted by the doctors in their comments on yesterday’s teleconference.)

More background at http://dowlingdennis.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/problems-with-new-breast-cancer-radiation-study.

Gregory Dennis

December 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

Boyce and Daniel make excellent points. Nowhere is this problem more obvious than in reporting on breast cancer. For example, a report out of the San Antonio conference about a study on breast brachytherapy – covering an antiquated form of the therapy used before several, notably more effective methods were even available to patients – has caused tremendous concern and even panic among women who received brachytherapy.

We put together a teleconference yesterday featuring for top physicians who are experts in breast brachytherapy. The call was organized at the researchers’ request because they wanted to get the word out about problems with this study. (Disclosure: my firm represents a maker of a form of breast brachytherapy – but note that it was competing forms of breast brachytherapy, , not my clients’, that were highlighted by the doctors in their comments on yesterday’s teleconference.)

More background at http://dowlingdennis.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/problems-with-new-breast-cancer-radiation-study.