We give the story credit for highlighting the main point — that the benefit is small and that women should be informed and given a choice. The piece could have ended with that. it also would have been good to comment more on the science of the studies which were not really particulary powerful or well designed to support the claims (e.g. they don’t advance the science that mammograms save lives) or generalize well to the provider population at large.
Demonstrating far more balance than some other stories, this report allowed the chair of the US Preventive Services Task Force to explain their recommendations:
But still missing in the piece was any recognition of the possibility that a decline in mammography in women in their 40s could be a good thing.
At some point, costs must enter into this discussion. But this story never got there.
The story states:
“The data that we have suggests that 1 in a thousand will benefit from mammograms in the 40-49 age,” (the USPSTF chair) said. “There are whole lots of assumptions that are not supported by the data they presented.”
We wouid have like to have seen more discussion of the potential harms in 85% of biopsies being non-cancerous. But since the story did actually quantify the number of false positives, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt on this criterion.
Better than the competing Denver Post story if only because CNN allows the US Preventive Services Task Force chair to explain their recommendations – something the Denver story didn’t do.
But there could have been more scrutiny of the studies reported on. There was not much focus on whether we can really learn much from the single site retrospective study of their biopsies (did they compare to biopsies from patients who did not have screening mammograms? on what basis were they claiming that they were more treatable? and that being more treatable leads to longer life?).
No overt disease-mongering.
Good sourcing, including – unlike the competing Denver Post story – input from the chair of the US Preventive Services Task Force.
There was a far more balanced discussion of harms and benefits in this story, although the use of personal opinion and recommendations, and the ending resulted in an imbalance in the piece. Excerpts that demonstrate this imbalance:
Wouldn’t a more balanced way to end the piece – focusing on the shared decision-making element so important in this issue – have been to end with this:
Nonethless, all of this was in the piece, so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Not applicable. The availability of mammograms is not in question.
Adequate job putting the new studies in context of past research and recommendations.
It’s clear the story didn’t rely solely on a news release.