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:
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.
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.
The story does not quantify benefits of screening.
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.
The story fails to describe the evidence upon which the new recommendation is based. It makes only a glancing reference to "new medical information."
The story does nothing to exaggerate the prevalence or severity of cervical cancer.
Sourcing is excellent. Sources include:
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.
The availability of Pap testing is assumed.
The relative novelty of cervical cancer screening is not in question in this story.
The story does not draw from any of the press releases associated with this story.