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Missing The Point: Various Representations Of The Same Study

A paper presented at the 2011 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) breast cancer symposium this week has drawn all kinds of news coverage – and much of it is off the mark – even in the eyes of one of the American Cancer Society’s top docs.

The paper concluded:

“Results of this study validate the importance of annual screening mammography in women older than 50 years, and women aged 40 to 49 years recently omitted from screening guidelines. There was an increased prevalence of palpation (breast self exams) for the method of detection in women less than 50 years of age. If screening mammography is omitted in this group, cancers when detected may be of a more advanced stage and result in more mastectomies. This study also supports the use of palpation as a method of detection despite recent recommendations against teaching self breast exams by the USPSTF (US Preventive Services Task Force).”

WebMD’s lead sentence was: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

The Good Intentions of Men’s Health Week Promotion


This week has been proclaimed International Men’s Health Week – the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. And it’s part of what’s more broadly been proclaimed by some as Men’s Health Month.

The campaign offers a variety of men’s health “materials” – including the squeezy prostate stress ball pictured at left – if you’re into that kind of thing.

There are also brochures like the one below.  The “Facts About Prostate Cancer” state that men at high risk should begin yearly screening at age 40 – all others at age 50. The “should begin (at 50)” recommendation crosses a line not supported by the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society, among other organizations.

The campaign also commits fear-mongering with these statistics: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Screen Everyone For Pancreatic Cancer? What About Evidence And Harm?

Continuing this week’s spontaneous theme (we didn’t make the claims and write the stories) of runaway enthusiasm for various screening tests by some researchers and journalists, HealthDay news service has reported on a study published in the Oct. 28 issue of the journal Nature that they say “provides new insight into the genetics of pancreatic cancer.” In the story, they let one of the researchers get away with saying, almost unchallenged:

“What’s important about this study is that it’s objective data in support of why everyone should be screened for pancreatic cancer.”

Mind you, this was a study that looked at tissue from just seven patients. The story continued with its breathless enthusiasm for the pancreatic cancer screening idea:

“In the future, new imaging techniques and blood tests will offer hope for early detection, the study noted. And just as people have a colonoscopy when they turn 50, “perhaps they should have an endoscopy of their upper gastrointestinal organs that includes an ultrasound of the pancreas,” said (the researcher).”

The very end of the story included some skepticism from Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

A TV Physician Is Not Your “Doctor” Or “Coach”

A German physician wrote me about this, so while CNN may have an international reach, it’s not always with an adoring audience.

The physician was reacting to the weekend “Paging Dr. Gupta” program, which Dr. Gupta referred to once as “SG, MD.” The first thing that struck me was his introduction, in which he said:

“I’m your doctor. I’m also your coach.”

Later in the program he said:

“Think of this as your appointment. No waiting. No insurance necessary.”

I find this very troubling. He’s not my doctor. He’s not my coach. When I watch a “news” program, it’s NOT my medical appointment. It’s supposed to be news, not medical advice.

But that’s not what the German physician wrote to me about, so I kept watching (the segment in question appears about 5 minutes and 30 seconds deep, and after the 30-second commercial you have to watch to get there):

Gupta reacted to a viewer’s message on Twitter in which the tweep asked: “Does anyone know a ‘miracle’ treatment for ovarian cancer?” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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