First there was the “dubious milestone,” as The New York Times called it, of black women for the first time facing an equal rate of breast cancer as white women. Then last week, a headline on the sharp uptick in the death rate among middle-class, white Americans, a finding startling enough to merit front-page treatment in The Washington Post.
It’s no secret that there are racial disparities in cancer rates, longevity and other areas, so why the recent headlines? Continue reading
For much of modern medical history, the elusive holy grail of medical research has been a “cure for cancer.” Today, scientists have a better understanding of cancer, the diversity of cancer types and the fact that “cure” probably is not the correct word – ever – to use in discussing cancer treatment.
Yet not all journalists appear to have gotten that memo. A study posted Oct. 29 in the Research Letter section of JAMA Oncology explored how often “cure” and nine other similarly exaggerated terms were used by the media when describing new cancer medications. What they found is nothing to brag about. Continue reading
“When you pry the bacon from my cold, dead, cancerous hands …”
Some days it seems the press loves nothing more than a new agent that causes cancer. The more common or beloved that agent is, the better. And so the only way I can think to describe the way the media reported on the news that processed meats cause cancer is “gleefully.” The force of hyperbole was strong on Monday as the bytes and airwaves filled with horror at the prospect that bacon … might not actually be good for us. Continue reading
Siobhan O’Connor recently explored in a Time magazine piece an issue that has been gaining traction in both the medical world and the media reporting on it: the overtreatment of breast cancer.
Her story, “Why Doctors Are Rethinking Breast-Cancer Treatment,” opens with an anecdote from now-60-year-old Desiree Basila, who several years ago decided to do … nothing after receiving a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a stage 0 cancer in the breast ducts that was not invasive – and may never become so. What makes this opening anecdote striking was not simply Basila’s decision – one that has been discussed more often in recent years – but when it occurred: Continue reading
Photo: National Cancer Institute
The public radio show “On the Media” recently devoted its entire hour to an insightful and poignant episode on cancer and how we talk about it, simply and appropriately named “The Cancer Show.”
It actually first aired in March as the first of a two-part series (part two is here), but I missed it, so I’m grateful for the October rerun.
Unlike most episodes, this one did not focus on a particular recent story or even on several recent stories in the news. Rather, producers took a big picture approach that every journalist who might ever write about cancer should listen to. Continue reading
The use of snuff and other smokeless tobacco products by American high school students is up significantly, even among high school athletes typically more inclined than their peers to be health conscious, federal health officials say.
In fact, athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their non-athlete classmates, according to a recently published study. Continue reading
A lot has been said lately about the geography of health, with maps citing longevity by ZIP code, and other health risks such as smoking or obesity broken down by states, counties and other typical boundaries. But rarely do you see it cancer mapped by congressional district.
It’s a project the American Cancer Society recently took on. The research and advocacy group recently released a report looking at cancer rates across the United States by congressional boundaries, found higher rates in districts in the South and Appalachia, while lower rates were in Mountain states. Why further break it down by 435 lawmakers’ districts? Continue reading
If you want to get a better grasp on the intricacies of screenings and assessing their risk-benefit analysis, there’s now another option to reading about it. The inaugural episode of a new podcast series at HealthNewsReview.org features Hanna Bloomfield, M.D., M.P.H., sounding off on the problem of blanket promotion of cardiovascular screening and similar medical tests. Continue reading
Over the past two years, patient advocacy groups, researchers and consultants have said health insurers have discriminated against their members with high-cost conditions.
A number of journalists have covered these stories. The Marketplace’s Tim Fitzsimons reported in June that the federal Department of Health and Human Services was addressing complaints against insurers whose benefit programs were designed to drive away members with costly pre-existing conditions. Wes Venteicher of the Chicago Tribune reported on efforts by health insurer Coventry to make HIV treatments more affordable after patient advocates complained that costs for HIV drugs were too high. Continue reading
Any health care journalist covering the business side of physician practices knows that doctors in private practice often struggle. Health plans and the federal Medicare program make it difficult for physicians to get paid for the work they do and they change the billing and payment rules frequently.
In addition, doctors often say they have so little time each day to manage patient care properly because payers require them to see 20 to 40 patients a day. Continue reading