Cancer Clinical trials Medicine

The mammography wars heat up again

Unfortunately, it’s grant application crunch time again over the weekend. That means something’s got to give, and what happened to be the thing to give was this blog. Fortunately, all is not lost, as a “good friend” of mine has commented on a recent New England Journal of Medicine study from Thursday about mammography. It may not be as “insolent” as the commentary that Orac lays down, but it’s pretty darned good.

I’m fully expecting that the “alternative” medicine crowd will soon jump all over this study as “proof” that mammography is useless. It’s nothing of the sort, and, more importantly, it is not validation of thermography or any of the other woo that naturopaths, chiropractors, and various other purveyors of pseudoscientific medical nostrums claim to be superior to mammographic screening.

Also, several of you have sent me a particularly disturbing post about a woman undergoing “alternative medicine” treatment for breast cancer over at that repository of all things quackery, The Huffington Post. It was so disturbing that I almost gave in to my temptation to throw up my hands at the frustration of grant writing and dig in. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation last night, but I don’t plan on resisting much longer.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

12 replies on “The mammography wars heat up again”

Also, several of you have sent me a particularly disturbing post about a woman undergoing over at that repository of all things quackery, The Huffington Post.”

C’mon, you can’t leave us hanging. Undergoing what?

What happened to the Neurologica blog?

Sorry to go off topic, but I’m not registered at SMB

Hahaha, so speaking of a certain blogger’s classic typos… I had not looked at the author’s name on the SBM blog and was just reading it with the presumption it was an author unknown to me…. until I encountered a typo that had a very distinctive flavor to me (the repetition of a modifying clause, in this case “taking into account”), so much so that I thought I must be reading a piece by a certain author… And so I was!

Yes, it is true: That “certain author” has a typo style that is distinctive enough to be recognizable. Woah.

Helena, Dr. Novella said the other day on SMB that they were having server issues and are working on it. It is frustrating, especially since once in a while I can get on.

Steve Novella informed me that he’s moving NeuroLogica over to another server due to issues with the previous server. What scares me is that he also says that, after he moves NeuroLogica to the new server, he plans on moving Science-Based Medicine to the new server as well…


Whilst skimming the latest Psychiatric News this morning, I nearly fell out of my chair at this:

“[Orac], MD PhD, a surgical oncologist, criticized Berwick’s view of patient-centered care on his health blog over its seeming advocacy for ‘patient-led’ care, in which patients must receive any treatments they request regardless of the benefit or cost….”

On line version here.

The APA are reading you, Orac!

I agree with you that some HuffPo medical coverage is bogus. But “conventional” journalists get it wrong, too: the recent mammography paper was misinterpreted, and inappropriately validated, on the front page of the New York Times. I worry, now, that other health care journalists – many with good intentions and writing for smaller audiences – are on a mission to disseminate the “fact” that breast cancer screening by mammography is ineffective, which it is not.

For those who might be interested, I have a piece today on HuffPo, and on my Medical Lessons blog a few days ago, regarding the current controversy in which I outline the flaws in last week’s NEJM paper.

Today, medical experts say that mammography is useful in certain situations, but has proven ineffective as a screening tool for early detection of breast cancer. Worse yet, the radiation from a mammogram presents a serious health risk. These facts are published by respected medical professionals in reputable medical journals

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