Podcast: Trying to make breast cancer decisions while conflicting news stories swirl about

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In another episode in our ad hoc series of podcasts on how patients can be harmed by flawed news stories, we introduce another breast cancer patient story.

Melissa_Phipps-montage-blog-post_pageMelissa Phipps, 44, is a journalist, a mother of two sons, and, for the last year, a breast cancer patient. In the photos at right you see her at various stages, including losing her hair after chemotherapy.

Her story is compelling because it helps you reflect on what it’s like to hear widespread news stories about people similar to you in age and in condition, but who promote treatment choices very different than what was recommended for you – all while in the midst of trying to make vital treatment choices yourself. And because some of the people in question are celebrities, their stories get an inordinate amount of attention. This may even lead friends and colleagues to wonder and ask you why you didn’t do what those celebrities did.

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Media messages can cause real harm to real people. On our series page, see more stories like Helen Haskell’s and share your own.

Phipps wrote to me, “I started to worry. Had I opted for a lesser treatment on the advice of my doctors? Did I make a mistake? I asked my oncologist, who said the same thing the surgeon had said. These days, doctors try to preserve the breast tissue. I asked a nurse practitioner, a gynecologist, each time I received the same answer. But in the media, it seems that the double mastectomy is the only sensible option.” Hear more in our podcast interview with her, which includes her advice to journalists about how to do a better job reporting on breast cancer.

Links to related material:

Stories submitted to me by Melissa Phipps that may have hurt more than helped as she was trying to make treatment decisions:

The ABC Good Morning America clip used in the podcast was from May 12, 2015.

Other stories got mixed reactions from Phipps:

By the way, Phipps has a new book that’s just been published, “The Retirement Rescue Plan.” It’s not directly related to breast cancer, but we told you that she’s a journalist, and this is evidence of her work.

In case you missed it, we recently produced a related Podcast with AnneMarie Ciccarella, ChemoBrainFog blogger and breast cancer patient, who has similar complaints about celebrity breast cancer treatment news. The two podcast stories combined represent a wealth of smart perspectives from women who’ve been there.

Thanks to The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation for providing us with a grant to produce these podcasts.

Credit: podcast editor Cristeta Boarini

Musical bridge used in this episode: “Mad World” by Gary Jules

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