Truth squad needed on breast screening quotes

In the stories reported by major news organizations all across the US, there have been countless quotes that make wild, unsubstantiated charges about the motivation behind the US Preventive Services Task Force's breast screening recommendations.

A quote in a New York Times story yesterday:


"Why all of a sudden this change?" said Karen Sun, 41, who was loading her groceries into her car here in Los Angeles. "It feels out of nowhere."

It's not all of a sudden and out of nowhere.


As the Washington Post led with in their story, this has been a decades-long debate. What we have seen in the past 3 days is akin to what happened with the uproar 12 years ago after a NIH Consensus Conference on this issue made a concluding statement that many women - and their politicians - disagreed with.


In an ugly clash between science and politics, confusion reigned.

And now it's happening again.

From the LA Times:

Some Republicans jumped on the report as the kind of government intervention in medical decisions that Obama's healthcare plan would bring.


"This is really the first step toward that business of rationing care based on cost," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a physician.

Where is the evidence for that? That is fear-mongering rhetoric.

In the Washington Post:

"We can't allow the insurance industry to continue to drive health-care decisions," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who said earlier this year that she had undergone treatment for breast cancer.

Wasserman-Schultz, whose legislation promoting breast cancer education in young women was widely criticized by evidence-based experts, should be forced to produce evidence for her claim as well.

And on ABC last night, a physician was allowed to say - unchallenged - that mammograms pick up early cancers when they need less treatment. If anecdotes are going to rule the day, then that physician should have to counter the anecdotes I've heard from women whose early DCIS or ductal carcinoma in situ - often called "pre-malignant" or "pre-cancerous" - was picked up by mammograms. And the range of treatment options then thrown at them - as aggressive as prophylatic bilateral mastectomy - left the DCIS-diagnosed to wish that they had actually received a diagnosis of invasive cancer because the choices were easier and more clear cut. These are real stories I heard from real women. The story - the discussion - isn't complete without taking into account the experiences of women like that.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on November 18, 2009 10:08 AM.

Heartburn from heartburn meds - how to cover important drug issues on local TV news was the previous entry in this blog.

This is the kind of journalistic explanation of the breast cancer issue that we need is the next entry in this blog.

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