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Significant Number of Medicare Patients Getting Too-Frequent Colonoscopies


4 Star

Significant Number of Medicare Patients Getting Too-Frequent Colonoscopies

Our Review Summary

Its few shortcomings could have been overcome easily with a little more space:

  • mentioning costs
  • defining and taking a stab at quantifying harms.

(Also fixing the typo in the final paragraph where colonoscopy was used when they meant colon cancer.  We make ’em, too.)


Why This Matters

The story’s interview quotes nailed the issue:

  • Study author Goodwin “says the health community has been ‘a little too good in terms of selling the message of screening’ for cancer. ‘There really is an excellent acceptance of the benefits of cancer screening in this country, but I don’t think we’ve educated [people] well enough’ about the possible risks.”
  • “Durado Brooks, director of prostate and colorectal cancers at the American Cancer Society… says many physicians worry about missing a potential cancer and underestimate the risks of screening, which are even higher for older people with underlying health problems.”


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t discuss costs.  And cost is a significant issue here.  The AP story, by comparison, reported that “colonoscopy costs vary widely but typically exceed $1,000.”

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


Adequate.  The story said that almost 24% of Medicare enrollees in the study were re-examined within seven years “with no clear indication for the early repeated examination.”

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

Not Satisfactory

One of the weak points in this story – and in many of the stories we saw on this study, frankly – was that, while harms or complications were mentioned, they were not defined nor quantified.  What harms?  And how often do they occur? This story had a quote that “I don’t think we’ve educated [people] well enough” about the possible risks – but the story itself didn’t do so.

The AP story, by comparison, at least mentioned “risks that occur more often with older patients, including complications from sedation, accidental performation of the colon and bleeding.”

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


Adequate job.  Nice touch commenting on the geographic variations seen in the Medicare analysis as well.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The focus of this story was the opposite of disease-mongering.

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


The story used an American Cancer Society spokesman as an independent source.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


In the last line, the story at least mentioned other approaches to colon cancer screening.

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

Not Applicable

The availability of colonoscopies is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The relative novelty of this study was made clear in the story.

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


It’s clear that the story did not rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 7 of 9 Satisfactory


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