Tag Archives: breast

Stories about Robach’s breast cancer diagnosis ignore the evidence

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Image by themozhi's pixel displays via flickr.

Image by themozhi’s pixel displays via flickr.

It’s a jaw-dropper of a story. A reluctant television reporter is persuaded by her producers to have a mammogram in front of the cameras. A few weeks later, she reveals the results on air: The test she initially didn’t want found cancer.

In an essay for ABC News, her employer, Amy Robach wrote:

The doctors told me bluntly: “That mammogram just saved your life.”

If you’re a woman, this is the kind of news that sends a cold stab of fear through you. Here’s a professional in the prime of her life with no family history and, by her own estimation, very little in the way of personal risk. And she’s young — just 40 years old.

The problem with Robach’s story is that it is too scary. It seems to be a play for ratings in November, a month when television stations rely on viewership numbers to set advertising rates. Continue reading

Balancing a celebrity endorsement with evidence

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Angelina Jolie

Image by Gage Skidmore via flickr.

“The ability to talk to a lot of people is freakish,” said Chris Rock in a conversation with Jerry Seinfeld for his new online show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

“It’s more freakish than being able to run fast or dunk a basketball or any of those things.”

It’s freakish and powerful, maybe too powerful when it comes to celebrity endorsements of medical tests.

Dubbed “The Katie Couric Effect” for the 20 percent boost to colonoscopies after the popular anchor televised her own screening in March 2000, it’s also been demonstrated in cervical cancer and myriad other kinds of cancer screening tests.

No doubt it is happening again in the wake of Angelina Jolie’s May announcement of her BRCA testing for breast and ovarian cancer. The stock market has bet on it. And some doctors saw spikes in calls from patients after her New York Times op-ed was published. Continue reading