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Cervical cancer screening can wait till 21, group says


3 Star

Cervical cancer screening can wait till 21, group says

Our Review Summary

This story on revised guidelines for cervical cancer screening puts them in medical and political context. It does an adequate job of describing the new guidelines themselves. It is well sourced. 

But the story fails the reader in two important ways:

  • While it raises the question of whether the guidelines might be motivated by a desire to contain health care costs, it fails to say how much the test costs–or whether the new guidelines would save or cost money.
  • It does not give details of the evidence that the new guidelines are based on.

But it falls short in broader terms. When controversial new guidelines are proposed, a reader reasonably wants to know what the guidelines are based on, how they might apply to them, and what the risks of getting the screening–or not getting it–are. This story doesn’t discuss those issues. 


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story quotes two sources who dispute the notion that the guidelines are motivated by a desire to save money.

Unfortunately, it never says how much money the test costs–or whether applying the new guidelines would cost or save money.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story fails to quantify the benefits or risks of screening.

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


The story describes in paragraph two the potential harms of over-screening–that the testing led to stress, anxiety and some unnecessary treatments.

This point is emphasized by a quote in the following paragraph. 

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

Not Satisfactory

In the last paragraph, the story briefly describes the epidemiological evidence upon which the guidelines are based.

But it’s too little too late. The reader doesn’t know what data the panel used to change the testing guidelines.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does nothing to exaggerate the prevalence or severity of cervical cancer.

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


Sourcing is excellent. Sources include:

  • Two representatives of ACOG, the medical group responsible for the guideline revisions
  • Two representatives of advocacy groups
  • One disease survivor
  • One American Cancer Society screening director

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story describes the new guidelines in layman’s terms, and briefly describes the old ones. It makes it difficult for the reader to find and digest this information, however. 

It should have indicated the risks of not getting screened at all. 

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

Not Applicable

The availability of Pap testing is assumed.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Applicable

The novelty of cervical cancer screening is not in question in this story.

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


The story does not draw from any of the press releases associated with the guidelines’ release.

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory


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