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New Mammogram Benefits for Women in Their 40s

Rating

2 Star

New Mammogram Benefits for Women in Their 40s

Our Review Summary

It’s difficult to understand how you can report on a study and never include any actual data from the study – especially on a topic as controversial as this one is.

 

Why This Matters

Many women are confused about whether or not they should start having mammograms in their 40s.  Any new study on this topic deserves and demands more scrutiny than what was delivered here.  It is noteworthy that many leading news organizations chose not to report on this study.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of costs of mammograms.  Stories should not assume that all insurance companies will cover costs of mammograms for women in their 40s.  Cost is an issue and can be addressed in just one additional line in a story.

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

Not Satisfactory

Surprisingly, the story didn’t include a single statistic from the study it was reporting on.

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

Satisfactory

The story did at least mention the risk of false positives and how this could affect whether women would still be inclined to get mammograms as they get older.

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

Not Satisfactory

Does not discuss the limitations of the current study.

The article never pointed out that this was NOT a randomized controlled trial.  The article also should have discussed:

  • the fact that the study was based on referrals to the Swedish cancer hospital making it more likely that the woman had access both to a primary care physician and health insurance (which may be lead to improved health outcomes)
  •  the study included women with Stage 0 cancer – the stage that generates so much controversy regarding screening in younger women. Stage 0 breast cancer has high survival and is more likely to be diagnosed through mammography.
  •  the study excluded women who had Stage 4 cancer which could skew their survival results.  No information was given about why the study was limited to women up to Stage 3 cancer.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story did include helpful quotes from Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society.

However, for a story that mentions the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) three times, it failed to include any response from anyone on the USPSTF!

  • It states, “Even the USPSTF accepts the fact that beginning breast cancer screening at age 40 saves lives,” but it attributes that acceptance to Dr. Brawley – NOT to anyone from the USPSTF.  Can’t they, or rather shouldn’t they, speak for themselves on this matter?
  • It allows the study author to say, “All the USPSTF looks at is mortality.”  You’d get quite a different statement if you actually asked anyone on the USPSTF about that, but the story didn’t.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Interesting this story never mentioned that the study was comparing breast cancer tumors detected by patient/doctor to those detected by mammograms.

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  Mammograms are widely available (if you have access to the proper facility and a way to pay for it). So we don’t expect that the story directly address availability.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story never clearly established what’s new or different or newsworthy about this latest study in a long string of studies on this topic.  In fact, as already noted above, it never even mentioned that the study was comparing breast cancer tumors detected by patient/doctor to those detected by mammograms.

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

Satisfactory

It does not appear that the story relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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