breast cancer draft screening recommendations published by the US Preventive Services Task Force in May have generated controversy and confusion, making it crucial that health journalists provide balanced reporting without inadvertently creating false hope or unnecessary fear.
Cancer screening has always involved risks along with benefits: unnecessary procedures spawned from false positives are still potential harm. But increased public awareness of cancer screening guidelines and symptoms, along with a greater willingness to talk more openly about cancer than in the past, have meant that more diseases are being detected at earlier stages today than ever before. This makes it more treatable and increases the chances of survival.
Those developments also mean that more people are live longer with the disease. At the same time, with today’s longer life expectancy and the increased risk of cancer with age, the median age at diagnosis for all cancers combined it is 66, which means that more older people are also living with the disease. With the growing number of people living with and after cancer, it is more important than ever for journalists to provide accurate and balanced evidence-based information about cancer screening, detection and treatment options.
AHCJ webinar this week (Wednesday, July 19), Cancer News: Balancing Fear, Hype, and Reality, will provide valuable information for responsibly reporting the latest cancer-related recommendations and addressing the emotionally charged topic of cancer using the latest scientific evidence. Experts will explore the controversy surrounding the new federal guidelines, how cancer communication has evolved over the past century, and the implications of these changes for patients, health care providers, and the public.
Click here to register for the webinar.
How can journalists responsibly communicate the latest scientific evidence and help their audiences understand the nuances and limitations of disease detection, treatment, and progression? How do reporters provide a clearer picture to promote more informed decision-making and reduce confusion about screening options and modalities, and the growing range of treatment options, without unrealistically raising expectations?
Cancer surgeon Mehra Golshan, MD, associate medical director of surgical services and clinical director of the Breast Cancer Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center, wrote about the updated breast cancer guidelines in a New York Times opinion piece. He will discuss the challenges and considerations of balancing the risks, benefits, and harms of cancer screening with an ever-changing but never complete body of evidence on overtreatment versus lives saved from earlier screening. Golshan is not only a breast cancer surgeon, but a recently diagnosed colorectal cancer survivor himself at age 48. His treatment began when the American Cancer Society recommended that colorectal screening should begin at age 45 instead of 50.
Medical journalist Elaine Schattner, MD, associate clinical professor in the division of hematology and medical oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine, as well as a breast cancer survivor and author of “From whispers to shouts, the ways we talk about cancer”, will also join the webinar. He will discuss the challenges of diagnosis later in life, age as a risk factor for cancer, and how complex and emotionally charged information about cancer has been communicated by the media over the last century. Panelists will also discuss strategies for sensitive reporting on cancer issues more broadly, while maintaining empathy and avoiding sensationalism.
Both guests’ expertise lies in breast cancer, one of the cancers for which recommendations have changed frequently over the years and has been the subject of more scrutiny and controversy than most other types of cancer. But the takeaways from the discussion and from changes in how breast cancer screening should be handled may apply to a wide range of other cancers, particularly colorectal, prostate, and cervical cancer screening. .
The challenges of determining how and when to screen for cancers in various groups, and how both medical professionals and journalists communicate those challenges and the recommendations themselves, will only become more complex as advances in cancer detection continue. its rapid progress. Thanks to the explosion of technology around liquid biopsies and its potential to early detection of cancerseveral multi-cancer early detection Tests are likely to be on the market soon.
The evidence base on the risks and benefits of these new tests remains thin, but it will start to grow exponentially, which means that medical organizations, regulatory bodies, insurance companies, and institutions like the Preventive Services Task Force of the US will have to decide when and how these tests should be done. to be used. Lessons learned from the past combined with insights from Schattner and Golshan on cancer communication. it can provide a solid foundation for journalists to understand best practices for approaching coverage of these tests and other projections.
The following resources may be helpful to those planning to join us for this webinar: