The Evolution of Mammography Controversy in the News Media: A Content Analysis of Four Publicized Screening Recommendations, 2009 to 2016

Rebekah H Nagler, Erika Franklin Fowler, Nora M. Marino, Kari Mc Clure Mentzer, Sarah E Gollust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: There is longstanding expert disagreement about the age at and frequency with which women should be screened for breast cancer. These debates are reflected in the conflicting recommendations about mammography issued by major professional organizations, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society. Previous research has shown that these recommendations garner substantial media attention—and therefore might affect women's screening perceptions and behaviors—but to date analyses of such media coverage have focused on single publicized announcements. Methods: To assess whether media coverage of mammography screening recommendations has evolved, we conducted a content analysis of televised news from four discrete media events from 2009 to 2016, all of which focused on publicized screening recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society (N = 364 stories). Results: Media coverage of mammography screening recommendations has featured persistent messages of conflict and/or controversy over time. The evolution of controversy was also reflected in shifts in the relative attention given to mammography screening's risks and benefits, with consistent and, in some cases, heightened attention to screening's risks during more recent media events. Overall, the accuracy of media coverage improved over time. Conclusions: Results underscore the continued prevalence of conflicting and/or controversial information about mammography screening in the public information environment. Cumulative exposure to such messages could influence women's decision making around screening and trust in cancer prevention recommendations. Strategies are needed to better equip all women (and particularly underserved women) to negotiate mammography controversy and weigh the benefits and risks of screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-95
Number of pages9
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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