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HealthDay rehashes news release in uncritical look at breast cancer screening


2 Star


Breast Cancer Screenings Still Best for Early Detection

Our Review Summary

A doctor holds up a mammogramBeyond October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s not clear why this story–which is a rehash of a news release–was published. It won’t serve readers well: The story contains no new information; it oversimplifies the ongoing complexities of the debate about appropriate levels of breast cancer screening and their consequences; and overall is unlikely to help women make an informed decision about their medical care.



Why This Matters

Breast cancer remains a persistent killer of women in the developed world, and while treatments have improved quality of life and some overall survival rates in some groups, uncertainty persists with respect to clinical screening and risk assessment guidelines. An individual woman’s risk of dying of breast cancer is highly variable, based on genetics, environmental, and psychological factors. Thus, articles designed to raise awareness about the need for careful risk assessment and purposeful preventive and interventional care need to put information in careful context because women already at risk, or the worried well, may pay too little or too much attention to the wrong advice.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article lacked information on costs. Insurance does not always cover screening.

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

Not Satisfactory

Beyond vague generalizations of benefits, this article is essentially data free. Based on research, to what degree do these various screening methods save lives? The story doesn’t say.

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

Not Satisfactory

There are potential and actual harms to screenings, including unnecessary biopsies and other tests, anxiety and false negatives. Again, while new technologies have reduced some of these harms, they are not zero. The story doesn’t mention any.

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

Not Satisfactory

No quantifiable or measurable evidence for the value of “just say yes to screening” is offered. What is the evidence behind these methods? We’re not told.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This article does not disease-monger.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent sources were cited. The article is based almost entirely on a single source in a news release issued by Fox Chase cancer center by a mammographer.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


We’ll will give the story credit for noting that there are several screening methods, and for pointing out that not all women who have symptoms get breast cancer.

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


It’s clear that all of these screening methods are available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

It’s not clear what’s “novel” or new about this information. If this piece ran because of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that should have been more clear.

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

Not Satisfactory

This story appears to rely entirely on the news release.

Total Score: 3 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments (1)

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Colleen Sullivan, PhD

October 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm

The review of the Health Day article on breast cancer screening was detailed and very important. Patients need to learn that all diagnostic tests have more consequences than the immediate results. Young people need to be taught the tool of critical thinking in all they read. The majority of my non medical friends still believe a yearly mammogram is essential. Very few have been educated by their Mds as there is not enough time to be teachers.