by Lisa Rezende, PhD and Julie Huynh, MS
Today we celebrate the publication of our 100th XRAYS review. It’s amazing to think how the program we developed over the past three years has grown to serve over 70,000 people affected by breast cancer. We knew the need was there. We saw how catchy headlines like “BRCA Gene Mutations Also Linked with Salivary Gland Cancer” or “ ‘Angelina Jolie Gene’ May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s, Researchers Say” cause deep concern in our community.
Lesson One: There is no shortage of breast cancer news
When we began developing the XRAYS program, we asked ourselves and our steering committee, “Will there be enough relevant breast cancer stories in the media to produce a weekly XRAYS review?” Contingency plans were brainstormed, including, “We can write back-up reviews in case there is a week when there is nothing in the media!”
Two years later, we can smile at our past naïve selves and unequivocally say, “Yes, there are more than enough stories on breast cancer research in the media.” From the weekly churn of new research reports to the flood of stories that hit every October, not a week has passed without new research. In fact there are so many stories that our current weekly calendar is filled all the way out until November.
Lesson Two: The headlines are often the worst parts of the stories
Breast cancer news can be complicated—each week it seems like there is a new gene or a new food connected to the disease. But headlines must be short and eye-catching; while media outlets and journalists have good intentions to cover the news as accurately as they can, they also need more readers and more views. Unfortunately, this can cause headlines that may be sensational or shocking, but are misleading or flat out wrong. Over the past few years we have seen good stories that give all the information a patient needs that are ruined by misleading headlines, which are the first thing that patients read. While these headlines may serve as good “clickbait,” they can cause unneeded concern for people facing cancer and their families.