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How Can We Interpret The Conflicting Messages From The Media Regarding Research?

I’m choosing to blog about a HealthDay story headlined, “British Study Suggests Mammograms Do More Harm Than Good,” rather than do one of our criteria-driven systematic story reviews because our criteria don’t address the bigger picture.

And that bigger picture is this:

In a criteria-driven, systematic story review of another HealthDay story about a Dutch study this week headlined, “Mammograms Cut Risk of Breast Cancer Death by Half, Study Finds,” our review team commented:

“Given the documented public confusion about mammography, any given story about a new study needs to provide more context than this one did….We’re not sure that women will be any more clear about the state of the evidence after reading this story. There’s been much debate about the benefit of mammography screening and whether the benefits outweigh the harms.  This story does not really help women put the information into context, nor does it help them analyze whether this is news that really matters.”

So what happens?  Two days after that story, HealthDay publishes the British study story WITH NO REFERENCE TO THE DUTCH STUDY!  That’s exactly the point we made in our review of the earlier story.

What are women to make of these two different messages in two days’ time from HealthDay?

I don’t mean to pick on HealthDay.  This could have been any news source; I just saw it on HealthDay because we monitor their work daily.

But think of a woman who is in the midst of trying to decide about mammography for herself – and she reads this kind of disjointed, disconnected news coverage that offers no context, no analysis, no linking to what was reported the same week – in short, no help!

The mammography du jour story treatment serves no one.

*This blog post was originally published at Health News Review*

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