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Guidelines Push Back Age for Cervical Cancer Tests


3 Star

Guidelines Push Back Age for Cervical Cancer Tests

Our Review Summary

This story on new cervical screening guidelines attempts–and largely succeeds–at putting the new recommendations in political and medical context.

But, despite its considerable length, it leaves big information gaps:

  • What evidence are the new guidelines based on?
  • How much does screening cost, and how much money is being spent on what the new guidelines say are unnecessary–and possibly harmful–screenings?
  • What is the risk of deaths, cancers, and/or unnecessary treatment for women in various age groups?

The story is well-sourced and is certainly granted sufficient length–1,250 words.

But at the end readers learn essentially that there are controversial new guidelines–but get little information to help them evaluate their credibility, applicability or relevance.

On the other hand, they do learn that politicians are using the guidelines to argue about health care reform. 

That doesn’t serve readers who care about cervical cancer risks.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The report does not mention costs. Price should be taken into account whenever population screening is an issue.

Given how much emphasis the story puts on the political ramifications for health care reform, the omission is particularly unfortunate. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify benefits of screening. 

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


The story mentions the harms of not catching cervical cancers early. It devotes some attention to the harms of over-treatment that follow unnecessary screening, particularly in low-risk younger women.

The story should have mentioned the likelihood of these risks.


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

Not Satisfactory

The story fails to describe the evidence upon which the new recommendation is based. It makes only a glancing reference to "new medical information."

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:

  • A member of the guidelines committee
  • Three physicians, one with the American Cancer Society
  • Three political players
  • Two patients

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story adequately compares the two guidelines.

But it failed to compare the options–and consequences to patients–of getting screened and not getting screened. 

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 relative 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 this story.

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory


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