Maybe we should stop anchor chit-chat after TV health news stories: new example in mammography story

The authors of the paper in JAMA Internal Medicine, “Outcomes of Screening Mammography by Frequency, Breast Density, and Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy,” wrote:

Controversy exists about the frequency women should undergo screening mammography and whether screening interval should vary according to risk factors beyond age.

And concluded, as a result of the analysis they report:

Women aged 50 to 74 years, regardless of breast density or hormone replacement therapy use, can undergo biennial rather than annual mammography because biennial screening does not increase the risk of presenting with advanced disease but does substantially reduce the cumulative risk of a false-positive mammography result and biopsy recommendation. Women aged 40 to 49 years with extremely dense breasts who choose to undergo mammography should consider annual screening to decrease the risk of advanced-stage disease but should be informed that annual screening leads to a high cumulative probability of a false-positive mammography result because of the additional screening examinations.

On CBS, Dr. Jon LaPook presented a careful report for more than 2 minutes, only to have substitute anchor Bob Schieffer conclude, in the post-package chit-chat with LaPook:

“Well to be safe, you should get a mammogram.”

Was he listening to the previous report?

LaPook stammered some unintelligible response (I listened to it 6 times and couldn’t understand it) – perhaps staggered by what Schieffer just said.

I have always admired Schieffer and still do.  But these semi-scripted followup discussions between reporter and anchor are sometimes silly.  When they stay on-script, it’s obvious and sounds pre-arranged.  And when they go off-script, they can often blow up.

Meantime, a Danish study reported in Annals of Internal Medicine concluded:

False-positive findings on screening mammography causes long-term psychosocial harm: 3 years after a false-positive finding, women experience psychosocial consequences that range between those experienced by women with a normal mammogram and those with a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Which is just one more reason why Schieffer’s simplistic statement/summary was journalistically unsound.


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Comments (2)

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Stephanie Cope

March 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I never comment on anything on the internet, but was so glad to find that there was someone else who thought this was completely inappropriate for the ‘news’. Either he wasn’t listening to the story, or has had too much of the ‘Komen kool-Aid” that causes someone to dismiss anything contrary to the mammogram dogma. I agree they should skip the chit chat between anchors to avoid showing their opinions and stick to reporting the story.