A journalist wrote us this week asking, "What’s up with HealthDay and its news release rehashes? This is important because many mainstream media outlets and consumer health websites publish HealthDay stories." We can’t answer that but we wish it would change.
There are active debates about the competing technologies for colon cancer screening and what evidence is best for any of them. This story didn’t touch on those debates, choosing to take only what the Mayo Clinic news release gave them.
No discussion of costs.
The story did an adequate job of quantifying the benefits seen in two trials, but didn’t comment on the small sample size in one study and didn’t disclose the size of the sample studied in the other.
No discussion of false positives with this method.
One study was in 10 people. No comment on the limitations of drawing conclusions from such a small sample. We weren’t told how many people were in the other study.
No overt disease-mongering.
Only the Mayo Clinic researcher quoted in the news release is quoted in the story. Given all of the competing approaches to colon cancer screening, someone independent of this work needed to comment to put this research into perspective.
No comparison with colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy or with iFOBT or immunochemical fecal occult blood tests.
At one point the story says the test is "under development." In another place it says the methods "were developed." No where is it clear if this is a method that is currently available.
The story didn’t establish the true novelty of the approach.
All information and quotes appear to be drawn from a Mayo Clinic news release. There is no sign of any independent reporting.