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Over Diagnosed?


3 Star

Over Diagnosed?

Our Review Summary

This story tried to help viewers understand that not all prostate cancers are destined to be problematic.  It provided some numbers on the frequency of commonly occurring side effects that have real quality of life impact.  It raises questions for viewers about the merit of diagnosing and/or treating something that may not cause problems.  If, as one clinician interviewed pointed out, there is no definite proof that regular PSA testing results in men living longer, then it would seem wise to pause and consider what value there is in undergoing regular PSA.

There were other easy-to-address issues which the story neglected:  costs of overtesting and overtreatment, how PSAs might be slipped into a general physical  exam without a man knowing it, etc.  But this wasn’t an enterprise story; it was based on a journal article released this day.  And so it just basically followed what was reported in the journal. Such issues needn’t wait for journal articles to be released.  New enterprise stories covering these other angles could be reported tomorrow, or next week.  But will they be?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no information presented about the actual costs of a PSA test or treatments for prostate cancer. And given the current health care economy, these are significant issues.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

There’s no data to support a line in the story…"One government survey found 75% of men 50 and over had taken the PSA test at least once. And while some men have benefitted, the fact is this test remains highly controversial." The story really should have provided data to support statement that ‘some men have benefitted….’

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

This segment was very clear about the harms that could result from PSA testing and from prostate cancer treatments.  Unfortunately for balance, there was no information provided about the harms of an untreated aggressive prostate cancer.  The story was never very clear that the real problem here is the current inability to distinguish between the prostate cancers that will never amount to much (and so don’t need to be treated) and those that are aggressive.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The segment never provided viewers with background information about the type of studies that generated the data that was presented. Not  all studies are equal. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


While this segment did include a statistic about prostate cancer incidence (1 in 6 men….) it was followed up with a more nuanced explanation that not all prostate cancers are equal.

Two points – to start this section off with ‘the numbers are chilling’ is actually disease mongering.  The point of the story was that perhaps this is NOT so chilling. 

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The insight from two cancer treatment specialists was integrated into this segment.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The segment mentioned surgery and radiation along with a watchful waiting approach as treatment options for dealing with prostate cancer.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

This broadcast piece did not indicate where men have PSA tests.  The reason this is important, is that being tested can occur as part of a routine physical examination.  Unless men are aware where they may be having a PSA test, they may end up with one.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The segment highlighted the notion that whether a man has a PSA test is something for him to decide (as well as whether to have immediate treatment for prostate cancer).  Since it also included the statistic from CDC that 75% of men over the age of 50 have had a PSA test, it would appear that either the majority of men choose to have this test or the option of choosing not to have the test is somewhat novel and/or unknown to men.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely solely on a press release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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