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Tulsa company hopes device can ease cancer screenings


0 Star

Tulsa company hopes device can ease cancer screenings

Our Review Summary

This story on a new ultrasound imaging device stands out from other zero-star stories we’ve reviewed. This piece doesn’t merely fail to be accurate, fair and balanced. It fails to even try.

  • It draws on only one source, a company executive whose job it is to sell machines
  • It doesn’t present any data to justify the source’s claims of efficacy and superiority
  • It doesn’t provide any context about similar devices and other diagnostic techniques
  • By implying the device can detect cancers mammograms cannot, it could provoke unjustified fear
  • It fails to distinguish between screening and diagnosis

Looking over the story, it’s not clear the reporter even asked a question. It is not mean or hyperbolic to say that most press releases are more informative.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story says the cost for ultrasound breast imaging with the SOFIA machine ranges from $250 to $300. This comes from a self-interested source and requires independent verification.

The cost should have been compared to the cost of a conventional mammogram or other enhanced breast imaging techniques. 

The story says the cost "should be covered by most insurance providers"–an assertion that again, due to the self-interest of the source, needs independent verification. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story makes no attempt to quantify the benefits of the device, or even to describe the claims in much detail.

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

Not Satisfactory

The potential harms of any new screening device include false positives and false negatives. Costs that outweigh benefits compared to other techniques are also a risk. 

The story fails to mention this.



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

Not Satisfactory

No evidence whatsoever is provided to defend the company’s assertion that the ultrasound technique is "more effective and overall more efficient" than mammograms.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

By stating that the Sofia ultrasound device is "more effective" and intended to "battle the uncertainty inherent" in mammograms, the story implies women not screened with this device may have undetected breast cancer. 

This is of course nonsense–or, to be as generous as possible, uNPRoven.

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

Not Satisfactory

The reporter talks to one source, a man whose job is to sell more of the machines in question.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story fails to discuss in a meaningful way the options of mammograms, conventional ultrasound and other imaging techniques used to detect breast cancer.

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

Not Satisfactory

While the article says the SOFIA ultrasound machine isn’t available in Oklahoma [where the newspaper is based], it asserts that "there are clinics in the Dallas area that have the machines."

This information is useless. Readers aren’t told how many machines there are in the Dallas area, which facilities have them or whether they are currently used for diagnosis.

Worse, the unchallenged generality of the statement suggests the reporter didn’t even ask the source–who is too self-interested in any event to trust without verification anyway. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The lede of the story implies that the use of ultrasound in breast imaging and diagnosis is novel. It is not.

If the SOFIA product is unique, it’s not even because it gathers images from all around the breast. It’s because it reassembles images in what may be a novel way.

The reporter does not seem to understand this. 

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

Not Applicable

There is no press release linked to this story, though the company may wish to use it as one.

Total Score: 0 of 9 Satisfactory


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