Newspapers, magazines, the Internet, television, radio, and other media outlets report news about cancer research and cancer treatments. Reports about cancer breakthroughs offer varying degrees of accuracy. Sometimes cancer news reports are exaggerated and based on inaccurate interpretations of scientific findings. Cancer patients and cancer caregivers are especially vulnerable to sensationalism in cancer news reports.
Questions for Evaluating Cancer News Reports
1. What level of credibility is associated with the news source and the reporter?
2. Is the language of the medical reporting clear and well-presented? Does the reporter sound like they know what they are talking or writing about?
3. What scientific evidence is provided regarding medical claims referenced in the cancer news report? What is the strength of the science behind the therapies being discussed?
4. Is the report based on science from laboratory cancer research in cell cultures or animals, clinical trials in people, or approved therapies? How available are the cancer treatments to people with the disease?
5. If the report refers to cancer clinical trials in people, what phase or phases of the trial are involved? How many people were included in the study? What are the characteristics of the study participants such as age, gender, ethic group, and medical history? How was the study designed?
6. How are any benefits from cancer treatments communicated? How does the reporter convey any novelty about the treatments?
7. What cancer side effects did the study participants experience?
8. What cancer risks are associated with the treatments?
9. What is the scale of the potential risks versus benefits?
10. What is the cost of the cancer treatments, if any?
11. Does the cancer news report provide alternate points of view from other researchers or clinicians? Does the report include an independent source?
12. Does the cancer news report provide background information to the scientific findings?
13. How are the treatments compared to existing options and alternatives? When was the report written?
14. Are the treatments a new idea, or a new version of an old idea?
15. Who conduced the cancer research?
16. How was the cancer research funded?
17. Is there a potential conflict of interest involved in the cancer research?
18. Were the cancer research findings presented at a meeting or published in a medical journal?
19. Has the cancer research been reviewed by scientists and other qualified professionals?
20. What does your doctor and other members of your health care team think about the reported findings?
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