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Mammograms’ Value in Cancer Fight at Issue

Rating

5 Star

Mammograms’ Value in Cancer Fight at Issue

Our Review Summary

This story offers readers a comprehensive overview of the study of screening mammography in Norway. It clearly explains how this study is different from earlier examinations of the effect of mammography, so that readers can get a better understanding of why the results of this latest study are different from what has been reported in the past.

This story does a good job of presenting the comments of experts who have different interpretations of the results of the study, so that readers can see their conclusions in context, rather than just a “he-said-she-said” argument.

The story also highlights the role of the multidisciplinary treatment teams available to all the women who were screened with mammography in Norway, thus making clear that screening is just one component of a overall approach to dealing with breast cancer.

 

Why This Matters

Readers of this story will see the new results as a useful addition to other evidence on the value of mammography screening. By providing proper context, the story helps readers understand why these researchers concluded that mammography may have smaller benefits than had been believed, so that the latest findings can be seen as an advance in understanding, rather than a contradiction of earlier reports.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the costs of screening or follow-up tests or treatment – to the individual or, collectively, to society.  Those costs are significant. 

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

Satisfactory

This story uses several different statistics and expert perspectives to explain what the researchers found in their examination of the effects of mammography screening. It not only include the relative risk reduction (10 percent) and an absolute risk reduction statistic (among women in their 50s, a decade of screening would boost the likelihood of avoiding a fatal breast cancer from 995.6 out of 1,000 to 996 out of 1,000), but it also offered comments from different experts about how they would personally value effects of that size.

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

Satisfactory

The story notes that screening mammography exposes women to false alarms scares as well as the risks and harms of treating tumors that actually would not have become life-threatening.

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

Satisfactory

This story explains how this study is different from earlier research on mammography. It points out both advantages of the study methods (comparing women in regions with screening to those without as Norway rolled out a national program over a 9 year period) and limitations (an observational study like this is not as powerful as a randomized trial, and the study might have found more benefits to screening if it had lasted longer). The story also noted the uncertainty in the numbers the researchers reported and that the real differences might be different.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not exaggerate the risk of breast cancer or the need to be screened for it.

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

Satisfactory

The story includes comments from several independent sources offering a variety of perspectives. It does not mention that the study was funded by the Cancer Registry of Norway and the Research Council of Norway.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story notes that improved treatments appear to have reduced the breast cancer death rate even among women who did not have regular screening mammograms. Not being screened was clearly acknowledged as an alternative, something not all competing stories explicitly addressed.

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

Satisfactory

The availability of mammography screening is not at issue. This story does point out that the women who were screened in Norway had access to special treatment teams. And it noted that these treatments are available at “many major medical centers in the United States.”

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

Mammography is not new, but this story does a good job of explaining what is new about the way these researchers examined the effects of screening.

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

Satisfactory

The story includes comments from several sources and does not appear to rely on a news release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory

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