Cutting through the Breast Cancer Clutter

It is a new year, and unfortunately, we can expect 2016 to bring more sensational breast cancer headlines. Think of some headlines we saw in 2015: Everyone over age 30 should be tested for the BRCA gene mutation. Olive oil may help prevent breast cancer. A virus found in cattle is linked to increased breast cancer risk. How do you know what is true, what is hype and what is misinformation?

It can be overwhelming to someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer or for someone helping a loved one navigate the maze of information surrounding this disease. Conflicting messages, oversimplification of complex studies and just plain misinformation about causes, treatment, scientific breakthroughs and “miracle” medicines can be found far and wide.

The National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) wants to help you cut through the breast cancer clutter by answering the crucial question, “How do I decide what to believe?”

What should I look for in a news story about a research study?
Your introduction to a research study will likely come from a headline, a newspaper article or a story you see on the evening news. Or you will find various blogs and other sources of information on the web. Many of these are summaries of the latest in health care research and can oftentimes sound dire or too good to be true. The truth usually lies somewhere in between.

HealthNewsReview, an online reviewer of health care intervention stories, has helpful criteria they use to evaluate the news. You can take some of their criteria into consideration: Does the article exaggerate the condition? Over-sell symptoms as diseases themselves? Does the article include the cost of a new intervention? Cite the harms of the intervention? Include perspectives from the other side?

Critically reading a news account —> Read More