This story is a very measured discussion of early stage prostate cancer and the results of a new study that confirms that active surveillance is a viable option for men and that for those choosing active surveillance, taking a medication currently used in the treatment of BPH may be helpful, but does not appear to be necessary.
The story framed the take-home message early and ended the same way.
Early quote: “”We’re identifying men who are not likely to need even a pill,” said Dr. Maha Hussain, a University of Michigan cancer specialist.
Ending quote: “If it was me, I’d choose active surveillance,” said Dr. Howard Sandler, a prostate cancer specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
One quibble we have is that the story didn’t challenge the statements that referred to “active surveillance” or “watchful waiting” even after the drug was in use. That’s no longer wait-and-see. That’s active treatment.
Thousands of men each year may be diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. News stories that provide accurate, clear, and concise information about the disease and its treatment options are priceless.
The story provided explicit information on cost.
The story reported on the possible benefit of the drug to slightly reduce the incidence of prostate cancer progression; it also mentioned that it might help with anxiety for those who decided to forego immediate invasive treatment.
Most meaningfully, it also included early in the story the expert perspective that “most of these men do very well with no treatment at all.”
We wish the story had indicated whether the differences were statistically significant and clinically significant in the percentage of men whose cancer progressed or the percentage of men in whom cancer was not found upon repeat biopsy. For example, to say that “cancer got worse” – what does that mean? Is it a worsening of clinical significance?
Unlike the competing HealthDay story, this story was sure to include a discussion of harms. Noting that the researchers had indicated that no new additional harms or side effects had been observed, the story then went on to detail the common known side effects. The story did not, however, discuss the issue that the use of this drug, in the new context described, could result in men taking it daily for decades and the possibility of longer-term harms have not yet been studied. Nonethless, a satisfactory job.
The story indicated that the study being reported on was to be presented at a meeting and that there had been a teleconference before the fact to provide the media with information coming out of the meeting. Unlike the competing HealthDay story, the AP story appeared to include independent perspectives from people they interviewed outside the teleconference setting.
The story did an adequate job explaining the evidence. And the independent perspectives helped a great deal.
The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.
Unlike the competing HealthDay story, the AP story did appear to include perspectives of some experts who were not on the teleconference and some who were not directly involved in the study discussed.
The true choices of choosing active surveillance or “watchful waiting”, of taking a drug, or of “rushing to have treatmetns that can leave them with urinary or sexual problems was very clear.
The story clearly indicated that it was describing another use for a medication that is already available to consumers.
The story was explicit that it was reporting on a possible new indication for a drug already in the market place.
It was clear from the story that a news conference ahead of the meeting was the genesis of this story; that said, other experts in the field appear to have been consulted for this piece.