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Breast cancer screening test may find disease when mammograms miss

Rating

3 Star

Breast cancer screening test may find disease when mammograms miss

Our Review Summary

The story appropriately notes that radioactive imaging for detection of breast cancer is not a replacement for clinical breast exams, mammograms and/or ultrasound. This is a newer screening technique used in difficult-to-call cases where a woman may have an unclear mammogram result or there is a suspicion of breast cancer.  What is not mentioned is that this test may not replace the need for a definitive surgical biopsy, where cells from breast tissue are examined more closely for cancer. 

The story reports only anecdotal experience of radioactive imaging, but no quantitative evidence on the benefits of this method of detection. (Currently, there is very limited evidence on the value of this type of screening.)  The story also does not mention potential harms of this screening. We are not told if the radioactive liquid can cause side effects. We are also not told the rate of false negatives or false positives from this test. If a woman is not biopsied because she is told she does not have breast cancer she may miss an opportunity for early treatment. A false positive result may lead to unnecessary treatment and psychological suffering.

The story does mention that this screening technique is available at 33 U.S. hospitals, however, this means the test is not widely available for many women. The story does not mention the cost of this screening or whether it is covered by Medicare or private health insurance.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not provide the cost of this screening and does not explain whether it is covered by Medicare or private health insurance.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story implies that this new screening is the best method of detecting cancer in difficult to read cases,  but we are not provided with the benefits of this screening over existing methods of detection for difficult to read mammograms or palpable breast masses with a negative mammogram. One women's anecdotal experience does not prove any benefit of this screening over existing, widely available methods of screening. And when the anecdote is framed as "if she has breast cancer it will find it" and "finally she can relax", there are no data given to support those claims. 

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

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of the harms of this screening. We are not told if the radioactive liquid can cause side effects. We are also not told the rate of false negatives from this test. If a woman is not biopsied because she is told she does not have breast cancer she may miss an opportunity for early treatment. False positives may result in unnecessary treatment and psychological distress.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not provide data on the false positive or false negative results of radioactive screening.  The story also does not give quantitative data on the benefits of this secondary screening compared with combined mammogram and ultrasound, or mammogram and other imaging such as MRI or PET scans.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering, per se, however, the story offers an anecdote saying "if she has breast cancer it will find it" and "finally she can relax."  That may not be overstating the issue of breast cancer, but it is overselling the potential solution. 

 

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

Satisfactory

There is independent corroboration with physicians (presumably) not affiliated with the makers of the radioactive imaging device.  We are not told if these physicans are radiologists or oncologists. It would be important to know if these physicians specialize in breast cancer detection and/or treatment as they could provide a more accurate perspective on the new screening in the context of other, more widely available methods of breast cancer detection for hard-to-read cases.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions that this screening is not a replacement for clinical breast exams, mammograms and/or ultrasound. It is a screening used in difficult to call cases where a woman may have an unclear mammogram, and there is a suspicion of breast cancer.  What is important, but not mentioned, is that this test may not replace the need for a definitive surgical biopsy, where cells from breast tissue are examined more closely for cancer.

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

Satisfactory

The story mentions that this imaging technique is available at 33 U.S. hospitals. The story also provides a website with resources about the screening and where the screening is available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story mentions that that radioactive imaging is a new screening technique that is used in conjunction with mammograms in women who have dense breasts and/or difficult-to-read mammograms.

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

Satisfactory

Because the story used multiple sources, it does not appear to rely solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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