Fighting the Drip

jay-baker-300-375This post was contributed by Jay Baker, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Communications Committee.

It’s not unusual for medical journals to want to make a splash during October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  If there are no advancements to report, a thinly supported, but controversial, article may do.

The latest case in point is an Oct. 13 New England Journal of Medicine article (Welch et al). This article claims that mammography has little impact on patient survival and that improved therapies are responsible for decreased breast cancer deaths in recent decades.

And once again the American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) must correct inaccuracies of a scientifically flawed study, addressing its obfuscation of issues before real lives are lost.

Unfortunately, our response can’t come after an article is published to be optimally effective. By then, it is often too late. You have to learn about controversial articles prior to publication, gather the materials to rebut the misinformation and get the correct data to reporters and decision makers before the studies are published.

This has to happen in a matter of days, often at night and during weekends. It has to be done in a manner that doesn’t perpetuate the myth that radiologists only push back because they are paid to do mammograms. But, more importantly, it has to be done.

If not, the drip of misinformation becomes a torrent of falsities that confuses women, restricts insured access to mammography and reverses years of progress against the nation’s second leading cancer killer in women.

The ACR and SBI have resources on their websites to help you not only educate patients on why women should start annual mammograms at age 40, but educate local reporters against the latest published misperceptions, possibly the result of peer-review failure. Helpful resources can also be found at MammographySavesLives.org and RadiologyInfo.org.

  •  What do you think of the Welch article? The ACR/SBI response?
  • Do you get calls from your local reporters to respond to the latest research?
  • Do you have any tips learned from these experiences that may help your fellow radiologists do the same?    

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).

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