The daily drumbeat of mammography news that doesn’t help women

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I’m choosing to blog about a HealthDay story headlined, “British Study Suggests Mammograms Do More Harm Than Good,” rather than do one of our criteria-driven systematic story reviews because our criteria don’t address the bigger picture. 

And that bigger picture is this:

In a criteria-driven, systematic story review of another HealthDay story about a Dutch study this week headlined, “Mammograms Cut Risk of Breast Cancer Death by Half, Study Finds,” our review team commented:

“Given the documented public confusion about mammography, any given story about a new study needs to provide more context than this one did….We’re not sure that women will be any more clear about the state of the evidence after reading this story. There’s been much debate about the benefit of mammography screening and whether the benefits outweigh the harms.  This story does not really help women put the information into context, nor does it help them analyze whether this is news that really matters.”

So what happens?  Two days after that story, HealthDay publishes the British study story WITH NO REFERENCE TO THE DUTCH STUDY!  That’s exactly the point we made in our review of the earlier story.

What are women to make of these two different messages in two days’ time from HealthDay?

I don’t mean to pick on HealthDay.  This could have been any news source; I just saw it on HealthDay because we monitor their work daily.

But think of a woman who is in the midst of trying to decide about mammography for herself – and she reads this kind of disjointed, disconnected news coverage that offers no context, no analysis, no linking to what was reported the same week – in short, no help!

The mammography du jour story treatment serves no one.



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Comments (10)

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Pink Ribbon Blues

December 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Pardon my silent scream! This is exactly the problem. Reporting that lacks context, continuity, and connection to the body of work as well as its own reporting on the topic does NOTHING to help the public to make sense of the ongoing screening turf wars, nor does it help women who are trying make important decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, this trend is far too common. Thanks for bringing it to light. — Gayle Sulik

James Coyne

December 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Bravo, well put, Pink Ribbon Blues.


December 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

This is like an Abbott and Costello routine: Who’s on First? No wonder we can’t make any sense of the “guidelines.” No one else can either! Reporting like you’ve outlined from HealthDay certainly doesn’t help the cause.

The Accidental Amazon

December 13, 2011 at 2:24 am

Thank you. You save me the trouble of ranting about this myself. If nothing else, these two HealthDay reports just underscore the need for more research on other forms of breast imaging and screening than mammography.

Nancy's Point

December 14, 2011 at 7:25 am

The continuing confusion is quite unsettling. Reporting without substance is becoming more and more common it seems. Sometimes it seems the only thing that matters is a good headline.