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4 Reasons Why Women Affected by Breast Cancer Should Question Health Information Shared from the Media

February 19, 2016

Mainstream media issues and concepts word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.

Where do women affected by breast cancer typically go to find credible information?


Like most people, women affected by breast cancer turn to the mainstream media—the news or the Internet—to read up on what’s going on in the world. Whether looking for an update on the presidential debate, checking to see when the big storm will hit, or reading trending articles surrounding the benefits of coffee, women with breast cancer and people in general, often believe what the news and media has to say.


Before taking the news as truth however, there are a few things that women with breast cancer and the general public might want to take into consideration. Below are four reasons why women affected by breast cancer should question: health information, facts, and statistics shared by the news and media.


  1. Journalists today are under increased pressure.

As traditional media audiences continue to decline, journalists and other writers are under increased pressure to produce stories quickly. The demand to get stories up quickly can compromise the quality of the reporting. Media sources may omit the tone of a report, changing the way the information is interpreted.


  1. Editors sometimes subtly encourage making an issue seem more urgent.

With numerous channels for people to get information from, the media knows they need to report on the most newsworthy items to retain their audience. Sometimes, if they have nothing pressing to report on, they might make a story appear more urgent that it actually needs to be.


  1. Health related headlines can contain misleading information.

In order to generate more buzz, articles, blogs, and videos often use catchy headlines in an effort to gain more readership. The downside of this is it can cause news organizations to misconstrue factual data. Not presenting readers with a clear or whole picture, or filling in gaps, can lead audiences to take action based on information that isn’t necessarily correct.


  1. Writers may not feel qualified to question medical experts.

Many writers and journalists today switch back and forth covering different topics and industries. Often, content is created based entirely on press releases. Other times, the writer has to do their best to comprehend or interpret the medical jargon they receive. Without training or advanced knowledge, these writers might not think they can question the information they are provided. A great example surrounding this statement has been covered in a recent journal,“Media Reporting of Health Interventions: Signs of Improvement, but Major Problems Persist.”


When it comes to the media sharing health information, it is always a good idea to check facts and do additional research. The XRAYS (eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Cancer Survivors) program began because FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) saw that young women, age 18-45, frequently seek health information about breast cancer. These women look to the internet and mainstream media for information, but feel that the health information they receive can be difficult to evaluate or contradictory.


Common flaws from today’s mainstream media regarding health information includes: exaggerating prevalence, ignoring potential side effects of treatment, and failing to discuss alternative treatment options. The XRAYS program separates help from hype because valid and clear information is critical for women with or affected by breast cancer, to be able to make informed decisions about their health.


Questions facts or information you’ve recently read? Take charge of your health and ask yourself these five quick questions when evaluating health information shared from the media

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